Three Things About Elsie
By Joanna Cannon
Review written by Mary Jedlicka Humston
I added Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon to my reserve list at the Iowa City Public Library, because recent reviews intrigued me. When this novel became available, I felt drawn to read it right away, even though I have stacks of books here at home begging to be read. Once drawn in, let me say, it is a hard one to set down. I would categorize reading this book as more of an “experience.” And, for that reason, I will share only the gist of the plot.
As those of you who follow us know, Mary PK and I generally post reviews about books that deal with friendships, letter writing, or related aspects. Three Things About Elsie centers on friendship with the setting being the Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. Florence Claybourne deals with dementia, but is aided by her best friend and confidante Elsie. Elsie helps Florence when she’s confused, uncertain, and needing a friend’s guidance.
Florence says: “There are three things you should know about Elsie, and the first thing is that she’s my best friend. People chop and change best friends, first one and then another depending what kind of mood they happen to find themselves in and who they’re talking to, but mine has always been Elsie and it always will be. That’s what a best friend is all about, isn’t it? Someone who stands by you, no matter what.” (pg. 9)
Their friendship alone is reason enough to read this novel, but there is so much more substance to the storyline and characters Cannon has created. Cannon also constructed believable interactions between residents, staff, and administrators at Cherry Tree.
Plus, it is also a mystery. It leads the reader on a journey detailing the challenges as Florence, Elsie and new friend Jack try to piece together the reasons for the strange events that occur to them and other Cherry Tree residents and staff, as well as trying to understand Elsie and Florence’s past.
The story becomes even more curious when a new resident looks exactly like a man who died sixty years ago.
I’m not trying to be cute, dramatic, or smaltzy when I say that I will treasure my first reading of Three Things About Elsie. A reader only gets that opportunity with a book once. Just once. However, I will be reading this book again, because it is that good. This is a rarity for me. “One and done” is my usual mode.
I guarantee readers will be hearing much more about this book in the future. I hope you’ll soon experience Three Things About Elsie.