Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Something Like Happy

Title:  Something Like Happy
Author:  Eva Woods
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2017. 432 pages.
ISBN:  1525811355 / 978-1525811357

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "You can't always pinpoint the precise moment that your life goes wrong."

Favorite Quote:  "...sometimes it's in the contrasts. Hot bath on a cool day. Cool drink in the sun. That feeling when your car almost skids on ice for a second and then you're fine - it's hard to really appreciate things unless you know what it's like without them."

Polly and Annie are strangers, until they are friends. One is living while she is dying. The other one is dying while she still has a lot of life to live.

Polly is a terminal cancer patient with a brian tumor that will lead to her death soon, really soon. Yet, Polly is determined to be happy and live every one of the days she has left.

Annie is physically healthy, but emotionally in pieces. Her marriage ended, ending many friendships along with it. She is working in a dead-end job and living in an apartment which she has not yet made home. Her mother suffers from dementia, with lucid moments becoming more and more rare. Annie has a lot to be sad about.

Polly and Annie meet at the hospital, and Polly makes Annie her project, if you will. She is persistent and edges her way into Annie's life, determined to have Annie join her project of a hundred days of happiness.

The book proceeds predictably with its repeated message about making the choice to be happy, about looking around and seeing the blessings in life, and about taking control of your own happiness. As you might expect, other friendships an romances emerges.

The serious moments in the book emerge from different sources, some predictable and the others more unexpected. The predictable one of course is Polly's story. How could a story of a lovely young woman struck down with a deadly disease not be sad? Beyond that though, it turns out that Polly has a story that goes beyond her illness. It is a reminder for Annie that all of us have a story. Thankfully, many are not catastrophic like Polly's but each life has sadness and joys. It depends on where you keep the focus.

A serious aspect of this book is embedded in a side character's story. One of the doctor is portrayed as aloof, abrupt, and focused. However, behind that demeanor is a story of an immigrant and a refugee trying to build a new life and devastated by the grief of the suffering of family left behind. Polly makes the point broader, "You know, nearly every doctor I've had in here is foreign. People say its' a bad thing, but what I'd like to know is, who would be doing those jobs if there weren't here? Thank goodness they can, is what I say!" Again, the point becomes that everyone has a story, but we have to choose to listen.

Another serious statement is found in the story of Polly's brother. His is the story of a fear of rejection, abuse, and the courage to emerge from both. The smooth, polished actor surface of his persona hides the story within. Again, a story exists. Joy and sorrow exist.

The book is predictable, sad, and sweet. There is nothing subtle about the points it tries to make. However, the central theme is a reminder that we all need at times. "How about a hundred days of doing our best to be alive - even if it's sad, or ordinary, and we want to cry most of the time? That's what living is, I think. Letting it all in. The happy days, the sad days, the angry days. Being awake to it."

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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