Tuesday, September 05, 2017
Something Like Happy by Eva Woods
Annie Hebden doesn't think there's anyone more miserable than she is. Everything in her life changed, crashing around her suddenly. Now, she's in a dingy flat in London, forced to share it with a roommate because she can't afford it alone. At thirty-five, she had hoped to have a nice house, a husband, and several kids. Instead, she's in a dead-end job, spending her time at the hospital because her sixty-year-old mother is suffering from dementia. Then, charismatic Polly Leonard, who seems to know everyone in the hospital, barges into her life. She even has the gall to show up at Annie's flat, and Annie feels so overpowered, she lets her in.
How do you say no when someone plays the cancer card? Polly has a brain tumor and three months to live. So, she challenges Annie to participate in the "Hundred Happy Days" project with her. Together, they'll find one hundred things to be happy about. "You're just meant to do one thing every day that makes you happy. Could be little things. Could be big." Maybe it's make time for breakfast. Maybe it's do something different on your lunch break. As the two women get to know each other, Polly calls Annie on her attitude of "barely suppressed fury". And, Annie finds herself pushed and pulled into participating in Polly's sometimes outrageous schemes, along with her roommate, and Polly's brother, and sometimes the hospital staff. Polly can push herself through happy days, saying she knows she only has limited time. When the day comes that Polly can no longer deny her cancer is terminal, Annie is forced to step up to the challenge.
If that sounds depressing, don't believe it for a moment. Something Like Happy is actually as noisy and boisterous at times as Polly Leonard. Woods has created a cast of delightful characters who grow more enchanting and lovable as the story moves on. It's hard not to root for Annie and Polly, Polly's brother, George, Annie's flatmate, Costas, and Max, known to Polly as Dr. McGrumpy, her neurologist. Maybe it sounds formulaic to say "It's not about counting the days - it's about making the days count." However, the book is tragic and funny, emotional and uplifting. Woods has gathered strands of friendship and life and neediness, and turned it into the captivating Something Like Happy.
Eva Woods' website is www.ink-stains.co.uk
Something Like Happy by Eva Woods. Graydon House. 2017. ISBN 9781525811357 (hardcover), 400p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent a copy of the book for possible review.