I cannot properly express my love for this absolutely beautiful piece of literature from Eva Woods. 'How To Be Happy' is an absolutely brilliant book which explores the fact that it is often the smallest things which make the biggest difference. The difference between actually living, feeling and being alive and simply existing. The book explores the way so many people just trudge through life, always settling and never really happy. It explores the difference between living your life waiting for the storm to pass and dancing in the rain.
When we meet Annie, she is the prime example of someone who is trudging through a miserable and unhappy life. She is so deeply unhappy and has been hurt so many times that she has literally forgotten what it's like to be happy. She lives her life out as if it were just a movie playing before her eyes, stuck in a rut, going to work everyday to do a job which brings her no joy whatsoever with people she doesn't particularly like. She lives in a uniform of black and is in general, just miserable and lonely. Her mum has just been diagnosed with early onset dementia and is stuck in hospital. Annie visits everyday even though, most of the time, her mother cannot remember who she is.
The day we meet her is the day on which her life is set to be changed forever is, for all intents and purposes, a 'normal' day. Annie is at the office in the hospital trying to change her mothers address so that her post will go to Annie instead which, though it sounds easy is proving difficult if not impossible. Then she meets Polly who is the epitome of happiness, a rainbow on legs and the complete opposite of Annie.
Polly, Annie learns quite quickly is dying...terminal cancer. She has been given 100 days to live and is trying in earnest perhaps for the first time in her life to actually start living. To use up the small amount of life she has left in her to do all the things she really wants to do. Polly is trying to fit 35 years of living into 100 days. She is wearing all the clothes which she has but has never worn because they just weren't quite right for the occasion. Polly is like a living rainbow, throwing joy around everywhere she goes, inspiring others and being bright and cheerful. Somehow, Polly manages to drag Annie into her '100 Days Of Happiness' and through those days spent together, they learn from each other.
They form a beautiful friendship in the short space of time and together, they do everything from going up the shard to dancing in a fountain. Polly gives Annie her friendship and in doing that essentially, teaches Annie how to live again while she herself is dying. She shows Annie how to move on from the past, shows her that everyone is dealing with something and battling their own demons. They help each other to move past what has happened to them and along their way, they re-kindle old friendships and spark new ones.
They teach each other lessons about life like that you're never completely alone in your suffering, that other people suffer silently alongside you. When you only have 100 days left to live, you make every moment count. Make sure that every single thing you do adds something to your life, adds value. Through Polly, Annie learns how to live again, how to forgive and how to love and let people in. Annie takes from Polly hope...
This book is unforgettable and a brilliant life lesson wrapped up in an absolutely beautiful and heart-warming story. It's the sort of book that every single person should read. To remember how lucky you are to have this day, to have no cap on your life. To have the freedom to dance in the rain (or a fountain) to sing out loud and to stop being afraid, maybe just eat what you want. Nobody lives forever...The most brilliant and life-affirming book I have read in a while and really well worth the read or listen:
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