In Something Like Happy, we meet Annie - who is definitely not happy. Her mother is ill, she hates her job, lives in a grubby flat, her marriage has broken up and there's a tragedy in her past that has crippled her moving forward. A chance meeting with Polly, a woman who is dying, changes her life. Polly has been given three months to live - and she has decided to not to waste a single day or opportunity - and to touch and involve as many people as she can in feeling happy. Every day for 100 days.
"I don't want to just...go through the motions of dying. I want to really try and change things. I have to make some kind of mark, you see, before I disappear forever. I want to show it's possible to be happy and enjoy life even if things seem awful."
It's impossible not to like Polly as her enthusiasm is infectious. On the flip side, it's very hard to celebrate each day as she does, knowing that she literally has one hundred days left. Doubly hard if you know someone who is terminally ill. But the message at the heart of the book is important. We truly do need to find something or someone to enjoy every day - whatever that may be. Happy is different for everyone.
Annie was a great foil for Polly. When we meet her, she is grumpy, depressed and simply existing. And although the reader is pretty sure how things will progress, her 'transformation' is still a pleasure to follow. I enjoyed the supporting cast, especially Costas, Annie's lodger. Dr. McGrumpy is a close second. He's also the romantic lead in Something Like Happy.
Woods takes some literary license with some of her plotting. Many scenes and developments take place in the hospital. And in 'real life' many of them just wouldn't happen. (Such as sharing other patient's diagnosis with volunteers) As with the romance, these plotlines have the feel of a chick lit read.
Something Like Happy is a double edged read. On one hand it's a feel-good, inspirational read. On the other, it is tinged with sadness and will have the reader perhaps recalling loss in their own lives. But, I think the takeaway will be inspirational as well. Even if you don't formally participate in the challenge, the idea of finding something to be happy for every day is a worthwhile goal.
"The thing about happiness, Annie - sometimes it's in the contrasts. Hot bath on a cold day. Cool drink in the sun. That feeling when your car almost skids on the ice for a second and you're fine - it's hard to appreciate things unless you know what it's like without them." Read an excerpt of Something Like Happy.
(And on a final note - "At the moment, the challenge has been taken by more than 8 000 000 people from 160 countries and territories around the world...")