Thank You for All Things
I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. The book is Thank You for All Things by Sandra Kring.
What is unforgiveable? Do you have a list squirreled away? Are there people on a Dead To Me roster that you keep in your head? And what were their crimes? As long as I’m asking rhetorical questions, how about this: has your list of crimes that shall not be forgiven changed or shifted as you’ve gotten older? Do things fall in or out of disfavor? Do people?
Ok, that’s enough with the posing. Personally, I have people I won’t be inviting over for Thanksgiving; they’re bad for me and frankly I doubt they’d be interested. And if I had to, I’d do my best to keep them away from people I care about. Which is a roundabout way of getting to the premise of Sandra Kring’s book, Thank You For All Things. Tess is the mother of Lucy and Milo, two supremely bright children, living in Chicago and barely hanging on. Her mother is a hip new age grandma who prefers to be called Oma. There is a great big hole in the air where the twins’ dad should be. Tess isn’t talking, and Lucy spends her time inventing fathers. Then Grandpa Sam, who lives out in a place called Timber Falls, Wisconsin, has a stroke, and they have to go home Tess, Oma, the kids, and the place where dad should be. But Sam is on Tess’ list, and for a very good reason. He should be on Oma’s list, really. But Oma has some very specific ideas about forgiveness and besides, they have nowhere else to go. Sam’s strokes have left him largely speechless, and young Lucy finds him the perfect paternal blank slate.
Thank You For All Things is narrated by Lucy, who loves to use her new big vocabulary words and can’t understand why adults want to protect and shield her from certain truths the nasty truth about what good ol’ Sam was like to his children and his wife, and the great big truth about her father. Her frustration was palpable and understandable, and actually so was Tess’ rage at being stuck back in the one house she had long since decided was not and would never be her home. The closer Lucy gets to Sam, the angrier Tess gets. But her anger is perfectly balanced against her inability to just tell her daughter the truth that the world can be a hideously ugly place, and sometimes even your own mother can’t protect you. I had a pretty good idea of where things were going, and frankly Oma’s quiet determination to take care of Sam in his final days was beyond my understanding. Not that I didn’t get her reasons, I just don’t know if I could do it.
The nice thing about a book narrated by a child is it gives the author the license to be honest. The emotions and actions that color this book are sometimes raw and ugly, sometimes selfless and beautiful, and we trust Lucy to tell us the truth in a way she longs to be trusted by the adults in her life.