One of the recurring themes in my novels is the importance of multi-generational friendships. In The Cottage at Rosella Cove, the relationship between Nicole, a woman in her late twenties, and Charlie a man in his late seventies, is a crucial element of the novel not only for those two characters, but also for all those around them. With nothing in common except a love of scrabble, how is it these two form such a bond and why is it their friendship changes the course of their lives?
Friends we have from our peer group are wonderful, essential – shared experiences, shared values, shared views of the world. They sustain us – a relaxing coffee after work, a frustrated late-night text when the teenager has pushed every button that day, a much needed girls’ lunch out to laugh and cry about all that’s going right and wrong in our lives. They help us navigate life’s challenges – which is the best formula to use for baby, how to figure out the high school time table, car-pooling to get the kids to band on time when you have to be in three places at one time. They are the backbone of our everyday.
But it is that commonality that also limits these friendships. We are in a similar boat, paddling in a similar direction, with a similar outlook on life.
But what about someone who’s sailed a very different boat, at a very different time? Someone much younger or older than ourselves?
With every generation, there are different life experiences. My grandparents lived through WWI and the Great Depression, had no TV, didn’t often travel far from home. My parents saw the Vietnam War, the advent of TV and TV dinners, the birth of ‘free love’, the beginning of the fight for equality for women. My generation travel the world, have smart phones, and have known relative peace. My daughter’s generation come out of the womb knowing how to use a computer, have possibilities in front of them we can’t even imagine, and are being raised in a world where acts of terror are becoming common place.
With such varying experiences growing up, our view of the world, of life, is bound to be different. But perhaps it is that very difference that makes multi-generational friendships so rich and rewarding.
None of us exist in isolation. We are all products of what has come before us, and what will come after us.
Despite being separated by time, there are some experiences that are universal: pain, hope, loss, love – the very fabric of the human condition. And when we focus on those universal emotions, what we share is greater than what makes us different.
Both Charlie and Nicole have terribly painful pasts. And while neither one can fully understand the other’s specific situation, they are drawn to the sadness and despair they recognise in the other. ‘Kindred spirits’ to use the phrase of a much-loved children’s classic. It is what bonds them initially, and then it is their very differences that maintains that bond, because what those differences provide is an alternative viewpoint. Another way to look at their situation; a fresh approach to help each other deal with the hurt they have suffered.
With distance comes perspective.
As Nicole and Charlie’s bond deepens, it has the effect of bringing the whole community together in ways neither of them would have expected, as the old and new – old connections, new faces – realise they are all bound together in this thing we call life.
Our own history shapes us, informs us, guides us. Absolutely. But the history of those around us can do the same, if we’re open to it.
What we can learn from someone who has lived through a time other than our own, what we can teach someone of a different generation, is where the possibilities are endless. And it’s those endless possibilities that make life so much more interesting, that give us a wealth of knowledge, which we wouldn’t have otherwise. There is so much depth to a friendship that crosses generations, so much beauty.
None of us exist in isolation. No matter what our life experience, life itself is universal.
By Sandie Docker
Love Between the Pages is the Penguin Random House monthly book club which “celebrates compelling stories with unforgettable characters that will leave a lasting impression.” The Cottage at Rosella Cove by Sandie Docker was the book club’s January 2019 book of the month, RRP $32.99 (Trade Paperback) $12.99 (eBook).