Format: Kindle, Bought
Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK
Blurb: Annie Hebden is stuck. Stuck in her boring job, with her irritating roommate, in a life no thirty-five-year-old would want. But deep down, Annie is still mourning the terrible loss that tore a hole through the perfect existence she’d once taken for granted—and hiding away is safer than remembering what used to be. Until she meets the eccentric Polly Leonard.
Bright, bubbly, intrusive Polly is everything Annie doesn’t want in a friend. But Polly is determined to finally wake Annie up to life. Because if recent events have taught Polly anything, it’s that your time is too short to waste a single day—which is why she wants Annie to join her on a mission…
One hundred days. One hundred new ways to be happy. Annie’s convinced it’s impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey that will force her to open herself to new experiences—and perhaps even new love with the unlikeliest of men—Annie will slowly begin to realize that maybe, just maybe, there’s still joy 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.
Review: I’m just going to come out and say it. This was one of the best, most wonderful, emotional, heart-breaking, uplifting and life affirming books I have ever read. I thoroughly loved every word on every page, the story-line, the context and the message behind it. If you’ve got a Kindle and a spare 99p, then you wouldn’t go wrong with spending it on this book and taking away the lessons from it. Self help books? Pah. Who needs them when there’s Fiction like this in the world.
How To Be Happy starts off with Annie who’s arguing with a receptionist in the hospital where her mum currently is. You’ll be familiar with the situation, where nobody is being helpful and you’re a stone’s throw away from pulling your own hair out. When an eccentrically dressed, overly-bubbly woman called Polly comes literally bounding into Annie’s day – and life. After a mix up with hospital letters, Polly turns up at Annie’s flat to swap them and from then on, Annie finds it extremely difficult to shake her off.
After bumping into each other at the hospital again, Annie finds out that Polly is ill with a brain tumor. After a lot of convincing, Annie is persuaded to do a 100 happy days challenge with Polly who doesn’t have an awful lot of time left. Both women have been through hell in their life, yet their outlook towards life and living is the complete opposite. Polly and Annie grow closer and closer and learn more about each other and more importantly, how to be happy.
Like I just mentioned, one of the main things I loved about this book was the two main characters. Regretfully, I can see a lot more of myself in miserable, mopey Annie than I do in Polly and it was a slight slap in the face at times. This book, first and foremost, shows you the different ways we can react to traumatic event which happen to us. The different ways individuals cope and process things. That’s the main pointer I took away from reading How To Be Happy – after realizing that I very much am Annie, I also realised that it’s okay to be. Sometimes.
Although it’s a very sad story-line, it does not come across that way at all. It’s funny, bright, bubbly (like Polly!) and it keeps you reading and reading and reading until your eyes are seeing stars. I just didn’t want to put this book down, once I’d started reading it. The characters – all of the characters – are wonderful and vibrant. There’s Polly’s gay brother George, Annie’s roommate Costas and lovable (yet irritating) Doctor Max. There’s a huge array of well-rounded characters that you’re not likely to forget in a hurry.
We eventually get into both of the women’s pasts and what’s happened to them in their lives up to this point. I won’t spoil anything here but Annie’s back story is so sad and will make you feel for her so deeply. It’s so easy to understand why she is how she is after everything that’s happened to her. Polly’s story is also a bummer – before the brain tumor diagnosis as well as after! – but Polly manages to find a way to cope, a way to deal with everything and a way to be happy. Which Annie never did. The women compliment each other beautifully, it’s almost like it was written in the stars for them to meet at this particular point in their lives.
How To Be Happy is incredibly life-affirming and left me paused for moments at a time whilst I contemplated what one sentence meant. It makes you think a lot about your own life – the good and the bad – and certainly how you deal with crap that’s thrown at you, which it inevitably will be. It makes you think about death – a lot. Which is a little over-whelming at times but I didn’t mind it (whereas usually any thought of death will send me into a blind panic). You’ll grow to love Annie and Polly and see them as friends. Your heart will break for both of them but they’ll put it back together again. I have nothing bad to say about it. An absolutely stunning book.