A book where you know at least one person dies doesn’t sound like it’s going to be uplifting but if I had to use one word to describe How To Be Happy, by Eva Woods, it would be that.
There’s something about this story that really appealed to me. I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – it covers difficult, sensitive topics (and could even be a trigger for some) – but it made me laugh and cry (and not just sad tears).
I felt completely absorbed by the mix of characters and their unfolding story.
The somewhat gallows humour is refreshing and the take on life, love, death and what it means to be happy genuinely made me think.
You need to read the blurb to get what I mean:
It’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.
Annie has been sad for so long that she’s forgotten how to be any other way. She’s trudging miserably through every day, sheer determination keeping her going. Until she meets Polly.
Polly is everything that Annie is not. She’s colourful, joyful, happy. And Polly is also facing the greatest challenge of her life: how to die well.
Polly has one hundred days to help Annie find happiness. Annie’s convinced it’s impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey, Annie begins to realise that maybe, just maybe, there’s still colour to be found in the world.
But then it becomes clear that Polly’s about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.
While Annie is (understandably, once you get into the story) living in shades of grey, Polly is running around in a rainbow. While it initially looks like Polly is bringing colour back into Annie’s world, it becomes clear that Annie has a part to play in helping Polly deal with her situation too.
They are unlikely friends but each has something the other needs and seeing how they grow and change is inspiring.
All of the characters have their own issues and it’s so well written I got really caught up in their lives.
It makes for heart breaking reading at times – and not just to do with Polly – but it’s also entertaining and funny. I couldn’t help but think how good it would be as a film.
How To Be Happy is an important reminder that we never know what tomorrow might bring (although if it brings you this book, I hope it also comes with tissues).
My rating: Five stars.
With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.