Stella and Margie…
A beautiful novel about two women – a generation apart – thrown together by circumstance, who slowly come to love and understand one another.
Stella and her mother-in-law Margie are two very different women.
Stella is kind, compassionate and just a little chaotic. Margie is prickly, demanding and a stickler for convention. Stella has exciting dreams for the future. Margie has only bitter memories of the past.
When Margie needs help recovering from a major operation, Stella offers her a place to stay. With no other options, Margie returns to the family farm where for decades, until Stella’s arrival, she was the one in charge.
Margie has never made life easy for her daughter-in-law, and that’s not going to change now she’s been made a guest in her former home.
But as the dry summer turns to a beautiful autumn, the two women gradually form an unlikely bond, as the ambitions, secrets, and tragedies that have shaped their lives are slowly uncovered…
Stella and Margie is what I like to call ‘quietly beautiful’. There is no fast paced dramatic plot, but rather a gently unfolding story of every day life in a contemporary family. It’s a real treasure of a novel and I enjoyed it immensely.
Both Stella and Margie were highly authentic characters and I could relate to them both, their flaws adding that layer of reality that ensured my continued investment in their journey. Margie’s situation made me sad, her backstory as well as her current plight. The feeling of being a burden to your family was articulated through Margie by Glenna Thompson with such a precise intricacy. To be old and infirm, relying on others for everything; Margie might have been stubborn and rude, but her unhappiness was so ingrained into her soul that accepting kindness was as much of a struggle for her as moving about as her hip healed. Stella, with her compassion and patience, was an admirable daughter-in-law; many women would not have put up with what she did, particularly given the fact that her husband, Margie’s own son, did not want his mother in the house, and went out of his way to make this fact known. I particularly enjoyed Glenna Thompson’s examination of Stella, a woman pulled in many opposing directions, like so many of us are today. Balancing the demands of our children, husbands, households, our own work and interests; throwing in the care of an elderly parent as another ball to juggle is no small thing.
There are many important themes brought into the spotlight within this novel. I quite liked the character of Ross, despite his coldness to his mother. It’s hard to understand the parent-child relationship when domestic violence has been thrown into the mix, unless you’ve actually experienced it yourself, and suffice to say, I felt Ross’s perspective keenly and feel Glenna Thompson hit the nail on the head squarely. It’s all too easy to judge a person on their present actions, but backstory matters, it shapes and influences, and in some instances, it even excuses. I completely understood Ross’s need to just not go there; sometimes you just want to let things lie.
Margie’s interest in birds and Stella’s interest in community theatre added much to this story in terms of demonstrating a personal side to both of these women. It showed them as individuals outside of the confines of their everyday roles, two women rather than a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law. The intersecting of these interests for the two women gave each of them an ability to understand and appreciate the other within a different context.
Stella and Margie is the perfect novel for our times, encapsulating the sort of issues we are all facing day to day. It shows the importance of kindness and patience, and how with both, understanding can come between people who are vastly different.
Thanks is extended to Penguin Random House Australia for providing me with a copy of Stella and Margie for review.
Glenna Thomson lives in north-east Victoria on a cattle property. She portrays her experiences on the farm, and in her extensive garden, vividly in her writing. For several years, Glenna and her husband also managed a commercial blueberry orchard, which inspired her first novel, Blueberry. Glenna grew up on an apple orchard, married, had children, and before moving to the country she developed a career in overseas aid and business. Stella and Margie is her second novel.