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When I Was Seven

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Lucas is thrilled when his grandmother comes to live with him. She's his best friend after Justin from down the street. But when she starts remembering things from her past, is he the only one who will listen? If no one else believes her, how can he fulfill her dying wish? A compelling story about the complexity and value of family as seen through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy.


Published September 29, 2016

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About the author

Mary Ellen Bramwell

5 books25 followers
Mary Ellen Bramwell, a bestselling and award-winning author, has been writing stories since she was ten years old. After working in other fields and raising five children as a stay-at-home mom, Mary Ellen returned to her first love, writing. She resides in the Mountain West with her husband of over 35 years and her youngest son.

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5 stars
77 (58%)
4 stars
39 (29%)
3 stars
12 (9%)
2 stars
2 (1%)
1 star
2 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews
Profile Image for Debi Hawkes.
135 reviews11 followers
October 18, 2018
A lovely story dealing with family and life issues, told by a charming and authentic 7 year old. Kudos, very well done.
Profile Image for John Hazen.
Author 7 books30 followers
March 2, 2017
An author takes a big risk when attempting to tell a story through the eyes of a young child, especially when the book is aimed at an adult audience to explore complex, mature issues. There are so many things that could go wrong. The language and knowledge/experience base of the narrator could come off as too grown up. The story itself could be dumbed-down and appear more of a children’s book rather than one geared towards adults. The story could be overly insipid. The relationship between the child and the adult figures in his life could be portrayed as equals rather than as a more natural superior-subordinate interaction you have between a parent and a child. So it was with this sense of possible foreboding that I started to read Mary Ellen Bramwell’s When I Was Seven.

I had read one of Ms. Bramwell’s previous works, Apple of My Eye, which I thought was an excellent novel, so I knew this book would be well-written, but could she pull off writing in a seven-year old’s voice? The answer is a resounding YES. You actually believe you are viewing the world through the eyes of an intelligent and curious young boy as he faces life’s tragedy and challenges. It is a story of perseverance, redemption, friendship, responsibility and, most importantly, love.
It is a book that I wholeheartedly recommend. Because When I Was Seven is so different from Apple of My Eye, Mary Ellen Bramwell shows herself to be a versatile author and I look forward to see what she tackles in her next book.

My only quibble with the book is that I thought the title, while fully descriptive, may do Ms. Bramwell a disservice and may deter some potential readers as they may anticipate the problems I outline above. To them I say: read this book. You will be moved to laughter and to tears and a lot of emotions in between. I believe this book will especially resonate for anybody who grew up close to one or more of their grandparents.
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Profile Image for Patricia Manship.
28 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2019

Such a beautiful story ,hope I can find more like it ! Thank you very much ,loo!omg forward to more !
62 reviews3 followers
October 8, 2022
Grandma and grandson

A special bond is between these two and as the story progresses it grabs your attention that there is more to these people than the initial story. Anyone who has ever been a caregiver can identify with either the daughter or the grandson, depending on your outlook but there are more surprises than that in this book.
Completely worth my time and I would recommend to anyone for the writing and story. I loved all the characters but especially Mamie but I can't tell you why, you just have to get to know her for yourself.
6 reviews
November 14, 2022
A beautiful story

I'm crying as I write this. Such a wonderful story about family, love and loss. So glad I read this book!
Profile Image for Pam.
4,314 reviews41 followers
June 14, 2018
When I Was Seven is a novel by Mary Bramwell. This novel is absolutely fantastic. It deals with death and dying, misplaced anger, kidnapping, and love. It is very well-written and the characters are extremely realistic. Mary Bramwell has an amazing way of writing about death and dying that keeps you glued to the pages until you are finished. You definitely need a box of Kleenex while you read this book. How can you expect a young boy of seven to accept death?
Lucas is seven when his Grandma comes to stay at his house. At first, he thinks she is staying until she gets better after being in the hospital. However, she is here because she is dying of cancer. Lucas has a special connection with his Grandma and has spent hours playing and talking with her. He continues this while she is at his house. She explains to him that she is dying and how to accept her death when it comes. She explains how the medicines she takes for pain confuses her and sometimes she doesn’t speak because there is too much going on in her head and she is waiting until it settles. He spends hours with her sometimes just watching her sleep. He feels it is his job to watch over her. Meanwhile things are not going well between his parents and he has no idea what is going on there. They are arguing more and more and Dad is working such long hours. Mother is not accepting her Mother’s death and that is causing some tension.
Then Grandma tells Lucas she had a sister who had left her long ago and she wanted to see Abby before she died. Since Grandma had never mentioned this before and all Mother knew was that Grandma had been an only child, Mother doesn’t believe her. She thinks that Grandma is thinking of her older daughter Abby who had died before Mother was born. Lucas believes Grandma and enlists an unlikely ally to help him. He asks his paternal grandmother to help him. She and her son and daughter-in-law had been estranged for years so when Lucas asked to visit his other Grandma, his parents reluctantly agreed. When they meet, she asks Lucas to call her Mamie. She agrees to help him.
Can they find Abby before it is too late? Is Mamie helping Lucas to get “back at” her son and daughter-in-law or to hurt them or Lucas? Can a person really change? Is this too much pressure for a seven year old boy?
This is simply an amazing book and one which everyone should read.
Profile Image for Michael Hartnett.
Author 5 books14 followers
October 20, 2017
Affirmation among Loss
When I Was Seven by Mary Bramwell carries a poignant power. The reader finds himself caring deeply about seven-year-old narrator Lucas who embodies a rare combination of innocence and prescience. His compassion for his dying grandmother Josephine is marked by a seemingly bottomless desire to understand. As he is presented with the seemingly quixotic challenge of discovering his grandmother’s long lost past, Lucas must confront deep stresses on his parents’ marriage, the steady deterioration of Josephine, and a markedly compromised second grandmother whom he enlists in this quest. That second grandmother, Mamie, serves as a wonderful counterpoint to the more earnest grieving family members. In her interactions with Lucas, Mamie is thorny, witty, and frank. She shares a tendency with Josephine to treat Lucas with a candor that his parents refuse to in their efforts to shield him from further pain.
The reader watches Lucas grow throughout the novel as he gains wisdom not only beyond his years, but often beyond the adults in his life (“I kept listening like Grandma told me to, but I was listening to silence. I guess that’s important too”). The presence of his friend Justin grounds Lucas in the normal schemes of little boys, like their building of a doghouse as a way to convince Justin’s parents to get a puppy. In other words, despite Lucas’s extraordinary qualities, Bramwell has created such a vivid, plausible world that the reader embraces his interactions as sharply realistic and therefore more affecting.
The slow unfolding of grandma Josephine’s past – through her halting recollections, Lucas’s persistent questioning, and Mamie’s investigations – keeps the reader engrossed as do the domestic dramas bubbling to surface and the mysterious evocations of distant beach memories. And then there are the nifty plot twists, which shall not be revealed here.
When I Was Seven reverberates with echoes of the past and shimmers with possibilities for the future. Bramwell has created the compelling tale of the loss of a grandmother that is wonderfully life-affirming.
2 reviews
January 22, 2023
First of all, let me say that I loved the book. The point of view, that of Lucas, was challenging but very effective in conveying some complex ideas as perceived and processed by a 7 year old boy, including the notions of death and loss, his parents’ marital difficulties, loyalty, friendship and persistence. The voice of Lucas was sustained, throughout, by the choices you made in sentence structure, vocabulary, use of similes and metaphors, even the reconstruction of a child’s thought processes. Nevertheless, the child’s ability to understand and grapple with some difficult ideas and emotions with a degree of insight and self control well beyond what we expect of a 7 year old, created the picture of a child as sensitive and morally mature as he is intelligent. This is born out in the final scene between Lucas and his mother where he takes her hand and helps her out her place of grief by using his grandmother’s words, which he clearly had understood and internalized.
Profile Image for J. Johnson.
Author 5 books22 followers
January 20, 2023
Absolutely delightful and charming story told from the perspective of a 7-year-old sensitive young gentleman who, like me, was lucky enough to have both of his grandmothers as his best friends and confidantes. With a family mystery highlighting the human foibles of others in his household and on his street, Lucas sets out to solve it, as a special gift to his dying grandmother. His other grandmother, the tough and spirited, opinionated "Mamie" believes him implicity, validates him, and helps him to find the resolution. Well-paced and tingling just softly with intrigue, the chapters in this book are like the many warm hugs (with occasional hints of trepidation) which Lucas himself experiences throughout. At once both sad and uplifting, both nostalgic and hopeful, When I Was Seven is a true gift to all who read it.
Profile Image for Aaron Lawler.
Author 1 book6 followers
February 13, 2017
A strong and sweet biography, bristling with a generous helping of memory, vivid life, prose, and an unanticipated realism; a realism that rivals the highest things in literature. "When I was Seven" is human - a living story that adores the relationship between the narrator and her grandmother. The moments are truthful and heartfelt, and the wisdom is unforgettable: "Toys break, but Grandmas don’t.” Bramwell is genuine in her treatment of life, death, and family. She speaks to you through the narrator, and one cannot help but become a sibling or cousin of this affectionate family. You will enjoy this sweet tale, of a young child and that child's view of a very adult world.
March 21, 2020

The main character, Lucas, is 7 going on 40! He understands , talks and acts unlike any child of his age. The author should have made him 11 or 12. It was partly charming but rather repetitive - there were no sub plots - and the ending was a bit of a let down. The italic chapters in between added nothing to the plot. The grandma died far too peacefully and tidily with apparent lack of pain or other symptoms except tiredness. The other grandma's change of character was not believable. The mother was pretty useless and there appeared to be no explanation for the dad to suspect her of an affair. A good idea but for me there are too many faults.
Profile Image for Pamela Minnaugh.
35 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2019
A priceless connection...

...between a child and a grandmother. When Josephine lies dying of cancer, she begins to have bits of her childhood come back to her, things she had long ago forgotten. Only her seven year old grandson believes her when she speaks of a long lost sister, one her daughter says never existed. There are three outstanding characters in this book, Josephine, Lucas, her grandson and Mamie, Lucas’s other grandmother. I read this book in one day, the mystery (read twist) was just too intriguing.
31 reviews
March 11, 2021
Didn’t want to put it down

Such a beautiful story and told with such a depth of emotion and understanding of feelings. One of the best books I have read for a long time. Joy and tears but above all the beautiful things about life. The characters were so real and I loved them all. An amazingly gifted author and I can’t wait to read the rest of her books!
Profile Image for A.J. McCarthy.
Author 8 books127 followers
January 21, 2023
I was so happy to come across this novel about an extraordinary seven-year-old boy and his relationships with his grandmothers. Superbly well-written, it is a poignant and touching tale that explores relationships, family dynamics, grief, and loss through the innocent eyes of a child while he tries to unravel a decades old mystery before it’s too late. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for E. Paige Burks.
Author 4 books11 followers
November 2, 2017
Great story with a touch of mystery!

I really enjoyed this book! The story of Lucas as he struggles with the death of his grandmother and trying to help her solve one last mystery before she goes. Lots of laughter and definitely lots of tear, but worth every single one!
Profile Image for Ale Carstairs.
90 reviews2 followers
January 24, 2020
I loved it

I liked this book from beginning to end and unlike other books, I never felt how many pages I read until I was done. It was a super easy read and I enjoyed every page of it.
1 review
March 20, 2020

I started to read this book I t reminded me of myself and my grandsons always there for me. At times I wanted to cry then I found myself wanted to cry. This is great reading so close to ones heart.
15 reviews2 followers
July 28, 2017
Reality put into beautiful words.

Well written and a lot of intrigue encompassing the whole family, grandparents neighbours as well as pets. High!y recommended for all adults.
Profile Image for Norma.
405 reviews
December 15, 2017
Touching, well-written story

When I chose this book, I didn't know what to expect. This was a powerful story of love and listening and faith. Very highly recommended.
84 reviews1 follower
May 18, 2018
I didn't want to read this book

I started reading and never stopped it kept me til the end,it is a good story about how much a seven year old can do when they have to.
60 reviews2 followers
March 24, 2019

I had tears in my eyes at the end of this story. Beautifully told through the eyes of a seven year old child who was wise beyond his years.
October 27, 2019

Could not stop reading. This is a story I will not soon forget. Checking now for more stories by this author.
74 reviews
December 9, 2019
Enjoyed this book on the innocence of children and skepticism of adults. I liked how Lucas was willing to risk the wrath of his parents when he reached out to his grandmother.
2 reviews1 follower
September 26, 2020
I wanted to like this book more. It has a nice premise but went on too long in some circles before advancing the plot.
Profile Image for Mari Hamilton.
45 reviews
October 4, 2018
A young boy and his love for his grandmother.

A good story about a seven year old boy and his terminally ill Grandmother. An interesting book - not action packed - plain family dynamics, love and loss. Sometimes it takes a child to find the truth. Hope that you enjoy this book as much as I did. 5 Stars, because I like to be drawn into the book.
Displaying 1 - 26 of 26 reviews

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