The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks was one of the most fun books I've read in a long time. First of all- page one is a dictionary explanation of the word lemoncholy. Of course it sounds slightly familiar, but no, it isn't a word you've likely heard. The official definition is as follows:
The habitual state in which one makes the best of a bad situation.
A fabrication of the author's twisted mind that combines the phrase "if life gives you lemons" with the word melancholy to represent the state of being where one makes the best of a bad situation.
Already knew I was going to like this book. That is a brilliant word and a concept I am going to attempt to incorporate into my life.
Annabelle (Annie) Aster lives in San Francisco in 1995, though she is a bit eccentric in that she prefers older things: clothes, her home, her manners. Of course in San Francisco eccentric is the norm so no one much questions her. When suddenly one day her back garden is replaced by an 1890s Kansas wheat field and its small cabin, even she is surprised. By way of the mail box that stands between her home and the cabin, Annie exchanges letters with the old woman, Elsbeth, who lives there. In 1895.
Yes, at first I thought this sounded a little like the Keanu Reeves/ Sandra Bullock movie The Lake House, but it was better. The letters they send back and forth are full of humor and I love that it is two women who form a trans-generational friendship rather than a sappy romance. The excitement builds when they discover a murder will be/ has been committed and they attempt to prevent it. Also included in the book are friends of these two main characters that add lots of love and depth. Annie's best friend, Christian, has many of the book-loving habits I see in myself. I'll bet you do, too.
Christian was something of a reading opportunist....He read while he ate breakfast. He read on his lunch break. He read before he slipped off to sleep each night. He even read while crossing Church Street, ignorant of gathering rain clouds- not the most brilliant activity if his aim was survival.
Annie thinks the world of Christian and wants him to be happy. She offers him this fantastic piece of advice:
"Promise me you won't sacrifice your happiness for something as cheap as acceptance," she begged as he backtracked to the refrigerator. "Find your courage, Christian. To hell with everyone else."
I love when I find friends and kindred spirits in books. Isn't this why we love reading so much? They may not be real people, but within the pages of books, if I'm very lucky, I find my people.
Possibly my favorite quote of the book comes from Elsbeth in one of her letters to Annie, explaining why she was asked to retire as a school teacher:
I cut off an unenlightened (and smelly!) young man by saying, "Johnny! Didn't your mom ever teach you not to speak with your mouth full of stupid?"
How great is that quote?!
I really liked this book. It was the perfect vacation read- we were in New Zealand. I was thrilled when I finished and was reading the interview with the author at the back of the book and discovered that he is an American ex-pat living in New Zealand! What a wonderful coincidence. And I can't say I blame him for his move. New Zealand is absolutely wonderful! As is this book- pick it up soon!
*This book was provided to me in the form of an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.*