A Hundred Years of Happiness
A young mother of two small boys finds herself fitting in marvelously with a group of older women who dub themselves the Water Lilies, a synchronized swim team that meets in her parents' pool. Katherine Ann, better known as Katie-bug to her nearest and dearest, is sort of surprised that since she retired from being a malpractice lawyer to raise her two young sons, she so easily meshes with these elderly women (one of whom is her perfectionist and beautiful mother, Betty-Jo Porter).
Workouts take place in the mornings in preparation for a show that will display all the graceful moves this small group of genteel southern ladies can offer. Katie-bug, though appreciative of the womanly interactions she's on the receiving end of, still feels out of sorts. Her dad, a Vietnam veteran, has never been "easy" to get close to, and Katie-bug wonders just what sort of secrets he holds close to his chest that keeps him drinking so much and so emotionally distant. When the opportunity arises, Katie-bug invites him to a pricey ceremonial evening where veterans are honored and can meet/greet one another. Little does Katie realize what internal awakenings this will stir in him and how drastically all their lives will change.
Nearby, another young adult woman, Lisa --- daughter to Doan Vien, a Vietnamese immigrant --- is wrestling with her own life questions. She silently wonders about her past, the father she never knew, questions about her mother's romance, and why she feels so untethered. When she accidentally breaks the only photo of her father and reads his name, she suddenly has a mission. She must locate and meet this man, and she does. But the occasion is definitely not what Lisa envisions. Instead of happy reunions and loving words, she feels more rejected than ever.
Interestingly, both Katie-bug and Lisa have the inner grit to keep pressing past their worries and fears and get to the truth of the matter. Between the two of them, there is a mutual bond that was formed years earlier in Vietnam. Seemingly all the women involved will find a way to forge out the truth. Through a small measure of manipulation and subterfuge, they rally their forces, and the annual Water Lily presentation takes a wildly different turn than ever before. Courage and fear, truth and lies, present and past, all meet one another face to face. Not a single participant can dodge the memories or their affects (nor would they choose to). Real healing is possible only when the ghosts that have lingered so long have been banished.
Author Nicole Seitz offers her fans a lovely story, welcoming and charming from beginning to end. Readers will laugh and cry right along with these fictional characters, recognizing from one heart to the next that we're all the same underneath.
Reviewed by Michele Howe on November 13, 2011