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Book DetailsISBN: 9780143792260
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Book Review: A Lifetime of Impossible Days by Tabitha Bird - Reviewed by CloggieA (12 Aug 2019)
5 sta“I'm trying to think of something snarky to say to you, Katie. But at my age it might take a while and I haven't the time. Think of it yourself and pretend I said it.”
A Lifetime of Impossible Days is the first novel of Australian author, Tabitha Ann Bird. Impossible things keep happening to Willa Grace Waters. They are happening in 1965 to eight-year-old Willa in an ugly, leaky-roofed tin shack In Boonah where she lives with Mummy and Daddy and her little sister, Lottie.
They are happening in 1990 to thirty-three-year-old Willa in the brick house in north Brisbane where she is wife to wonderful Sam and mother of Eli and Sebastian.
And they are happening in 2050 to ninety-three-year-old Willa in the lovely old Queenslander in Boonah, from which several people seem intent on moving her. Willa is resisting: her memory may not be so good, but her notebook (Things I Am Sure of) tells her “stay out of the nursing home”.
The impossible things all seem to have something to do with an old strawberry jam jar with a dribble of greyish water in the bottom. It came through the Post in a soggy cardboard box with a card: “One ocean: plant in the backyard.”
What happens when (eight-year-old) Super Gumboots Willa plants the ocean under the mango tree (impossible, surely?) makes her believe there’s a way to save Lottie and Mummy from Daddy: not the Daddy who stands looking up at the stars, but the angry Daddy who shouts and hits and hurts.
In 1990 and 2050, each Willa is also planting an ocean in the backyard. A voice from the past means Middle Willa finally accepts the need to find her younger self; Silver Willa feels an urgency (she’s on borrowed time and can’t buy any more) to find Middle Willa and save her. That ocean in the backyard has a way of bringing the Willas together.
Bird’s portrayal of senile dementia is an insightful and sensitive one: Silver Willa’s thought processes and the utterances that ensue show just how poor memory, distraction, confusion and occasionally flawed logic can lead to seemingly meaningless sentences. Often, Silver Willa is simply, dementedly delightful: “In my notebook I write: 13. Find something 14. Find something 15. Find something 16. Find something 17. Find something She reads over my shoulder. ‘You've written “Find something” five or six times already.’ ‘Fifty-six times? It must be important, then. Where would you go if you were a lost thing?’” And to anyone who has filled the role of carer for an elderly, semi-demented loved one, Eden's reactions, her exasperation born of love and frustration, will seem entirely natural.
There’s so much magic in this book, so much fun: brightly-coloured gumboots, midnight teas, timeslips, scare-conquering stories, Chihuahuas with silly names, Viking forts under beds and jam drops (recipe provided!); there’s lots of laughter, but also tears and sadness; much bravery, kindness and love; many wise words.
This is a heart-warming story that asks: Can we change the past? If not, can we change how we handle it? If you could, what would you tell your younger self? What would you ask your older self? A marvellous debut novel from a talented author.
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