The Lily Trilogy
Novels, if they are compelling, can threaten to suck up all of a busy mother's time away from her children. For half a week, I have been capitalizing on the distraction of my family or stealing needed sleep from myself in order to plunge headlong into the world of Lily in Sherry Boas' books The Lily Trilogy. Some novels tempt you to want to live in a fantasy world, to keep the characters you have come to know and love alive.
I became engrossed with a story about Bev, an acerbic old lady alone in a nursing home within the iron grip of the final stages of Parkinson's, because of the way Boas described Bev's adopted daughter Lily. Lily is a young woman with Down's syndrome, whom Bev had reluctantly agreed to raise when her sister Jen died of cancer at 39. I had never read a novel with a character with Down's syndrome before, and Boas writes about Lily so vividly and with such appreciation of her childlike joy and limitless love that I was immediately drawn in.
But the trilogy, Until Lily, Wherever Lily Goes, and Life Entwined with Lily, attracted me with something deeper than merely an affinity for those with Down's syndrome. I immersed myself into the world of a lonely old lady whose life was coming to an end, and then the lives of her adopted niece Terry and grandniece Beth in the subsequent books.
I lost myself not because of exotic locations (Washington State) or romantic heroes. I was enthralled by such exquisitely detailed characters made me care deeply about what happened to them, whether Bev would die lonely and bitter, whether Terry would give up on her marriage to her handsome Jake who never picked up a tool around the house, whether Beth could open her broken heart and learn from Lily that nothing matters in life more than love. I had to know what happened to them, so I read these three books at a breathless pace, finding my heart wrapped around the characters, but especially the lovable, stubborn Lily, who never gives up on someone she loves.
The characters in the Lily Trilogy are as real as your own family, and as flawed. Yet, there is a theme of redemption which starts faintly at first. As a 30-something Lily walks her frail aunt down the nursing home corridors to patiently feed her meatloaf and mashed potatoes even though she has long ago lost her sense of taste, Lily gives the love Bev meted out to her in tiny pinches, in unmeasured generosity Bev knows she doesn't deserve. Lily's prodigious love changes and heals Bev, not by taking away the suffering of losing control of her limbs to the Parkinson's, but by helping her to see beyond this life, to an eternal love mirrored in the gentle touch of the soft hands of a young woman whom the world rejects.
The power of selfishness to destroy lives versus the power of self-giving love to restore hope is the theme of this amazing story set in the future. Strange as it was to see dates like 2066 written as dates in the past of the novel's characters, this is no science fiction book. It is a story about real people who resemble people around us, whose flaws hurt and whose love heals us, and the hope that turns despair into love though the power of pure intentions.
The Lily Trilogy are the most Catholic of books in that the glory of the fullness of truth well lived and the devastating consequences of the culture of death are juxtaposed in stunning relief. The story tells it all, with profound relationships and moving symbolism and enough realistic detail to remind the reader of a similar drama in their own lives.
Each time I reluctantly put the books down, I hugged my 9-year-old daughter with Down's syndrome and saw heretofore unappreciated qualities in my family. The books make me want to thank her for the joy she has brought to us, and not to fear what her adulthood will bring. The Lily Trilogy filled my heart with gratitude for my family, and made me determined to be the catalyst of God's healing in my family.
Give it to your mother for Mother's Day and let a little of Lily’s light intertwine in your own life. As a mother, these are the novels I want my daughters losing themselves in this summer. I want to sit outside with cups of tea in the summer twilight and talk about Lily, Beth, Pablo, and Terry. Then, I want to pick up the books and visit them again.