Something Like Happy
Living in a flat in London with a young, handsome man should be a romantic endeavor, but for Annie Hebden, it is an exercise is sadness. The flat is filthy, the shower curtain moldy, the handsome young man is—she suspects—gay, and she is all alone in a friendless world thanks to a personal tragedy in the not so recent past. Adding insult to injury, her mother is suffering early dementia and rarely recalls who Annie is.
Enter Polly, a woman as bright as Annie is dark, as full of life as Annie is of despair, and as colorful as Annie is colorless. It is the unlikely friendship between these two women that makes Something Like Happy such a joy to read–despite the horror at the heart of the novel: Polly’s big brain tumor, which she affectionately calls Bob.
Until she meets Polly, Annie doesn’t seem to realize there is a life waiting for her to live it. Because of her own personal losses, Annie sees the world as inherently dangerous, so she exists but doesn’t really live until she meets Polly, a woman intent on living every one of her last 100 days—if she gets that many—as wildly and as loudly as she can. From the day they meet at the hospital to the moment they say goodbye, Annie and Polly remind readers that there is much to be gained from looking up from our own lives and trying, even on our worst days, to find something like happiness.
For readers who have experienced loss, this novel may seem off-putting. My own mother’s battle with cancer made me resistant to Eva Woods’ beautiful book at first. Not another cancer story, I thought. But as the narrative revealed itself, I realized the gift Woods has given readers in her story of kindness, friendship, and gratitude set against a backdrop of heartbreak. If you’re looking to throw out the notion of a bucket list and, instead, begin living meaningfully right now, Something Like Happy is the book to get you started.
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