I’m a sucker for intergenerational stories. There is something especially sweet about characters from different generations connecting in meaningful ways and to a fruitful end. In reading, I gravitate toward books featuring intergenerational characters (“Fried Green Tomatoes at Whistlestop Café” is among my favorites). In real life, I gravitate toward those who have walked ahead of me, wanting to hear about what they’ve seen along the path of life.
This love was instilled in me early on as I grew up on my family’s Missouri farm. Both sets of grandparents lived nearby and helped shape my worldview. They had lived through the Great Depression, World War II and many dramatic life events. The fact they were who they were when I knew them was no surprise considering what they had experienced. I treasure the stories they told me about their younger years, which served as my first real taste of heritage as well as American history in the Heartland. Today, I share those stories with my own daughters. The stories have outlasted virtually all other forms of inheritance.
Perhaps intergenerational stories are even sweeter to me now against the backdrop of the dismissive “OK, Boomer” mindset so prevalent in younger generations. What blessing this mindset robs from those who hold it!
The two main characters in The Extraordinary Deaths of Mrs. Kip reflect my love for these kinds of relationships. Clara Kip, a childless widow, is nearing the end of her life, which has been full of hardship yet breath-taking experiences. Aidyn Kelley is the striving twenty-something reporter who is assigned to help Clara prepare her obituary. What Aidyn sees as a menial task to get through, Mrs. Kip sees as a gift – an opportunity to invest in Aidyn stories that matter.
Though their coming together is the result of a random course of events, Mrs. Kip is intentional about pouring into Aidyn. She considers Aidyn and their hours together “precious” and prays for the words to speak.
But it’s more than just her stories Mrs. Kip aims to pass on to Aidyn. It is the lessons contained within them. More than anything, that’s the inheritance she wants to leave.
Isn’t that the goal of stories after all? To teach? To edify? To shape?
One of my favorite stories from my Grandma Kaden was about how her parents used to secretly squirrel away butter, flour and sugar for months. Then, on Christmas Eve, when the children had gone to bed in their small farmhouse, her parents would stay up and bake as many cookies as their meager stash would allow. When the kids woke up the next morning, every surface of the tiny kitchen was covered with cookies. That was their Christmas gift, and every child delighted in it. To this day, that story teaches me to be content, to be creative and to love sacrificially.
Mrs. Kip knows her headline-worthy life stories can change Aidyn’s career trajectory, but more importantly, she knows that her stories can change Aidyn’s life, if the child will listen. She believes that if she can draw Aidyn in – albeit through a slightly ornery method – Aidyn will awaken to the surprising rewards of putting self aside and valuing others instead.
I have no doubt that my grandmother and Mrs. Kip would get along. I have no doubt I want to be Mrs. Kip when I grow up. And I have no doubt that I will long be an Aidyn in pursuit of a Mrs. Kip.
Sara Brunsvold creates stories that speak hope, truth, and life. Influenced by humble women of God who find His fingerprints in the everyday, she does the same in her life and her storytelling. Sara’s recognitions include the 2020 ACFW Genesis Award for Contemporary Fiction. She lives with her family in the Kansas City area where she can often be spotted writing at a park or library. Learn more at