Happyish by Jeanette Escudero
Expected Release Date: September 20, 2022
For a story with “last day to live” vibes, for a lot of character reflection, for lovely settings and journeys that’ll make your feet itch to wander
It was supposed to be a good day.
On the one-year anniversary of her divorce, Alex Martinez is getting closure—and margaritas with her two best friends. But just before the celebratory meetup, Alex is clobbered by life once again. Damping the cheer is the diagnosis of a brain tumor she can’t pronounce, a procedure she’d rather postpone, and the prospect of what to say to an already heartbroken mother. Not that Alex plans to tell her anything anytime soon.
Going from blissful to blindsided in one afternoon, Alex has other plans: to be impulsive and embark on an adventure she’ll never forget. Expected destinations: the Grand Canyon, Puerto Rico, and zip-lining through Costa Rica. Unexpected companion: a hiker named David who’s found a woman after his own heart. But no matter how enriching the journey, how long can Alex keep running?
It’s time to accept past griefs, reconnect with her mother, and find her way back to happy. For Alex, whatever the future holds, maybe everything she really needs to face is right where she left it.
Key point to jump straight to because there’s one big, obvious question when the blurb and point of the book is about a woman learning she has a brain tumor: the ending was unexpected, but in a good way. I felt like I learned a lot about myself through the way the ending was handled, and that was an interesting (and maybe humbling) experience in itself. I won’t say exactly what happens, just that it was done well and added to the rest of the story building up to that critical moment.
A lot of the joy I got from this book was from Alex’s journeys. As a wanderer myself, the visuals of the places she goes were vivid and stunning and made me want to be there. Yes, even with noisy AF monkeys, because it’s all part of the experience, isn’t it? The descriptions of each area make me think the author has been there before because of how engrossing they were. I wanted to be sat on a rock in the Grand Canyon at sunset as well.
And of course, the main thread of the story is Alex’s fear and self-discovery through these journeys. It’s no surprise to anyone but Alex, but she has a lot of repressed feelings about her past, present, and unknown future. As she’s in these wild places, she’s sitting with herself a lot and coming to terms with all the things she should have reckoned with long ago. Meanwhile, she’s constantly being proven wrong about how alone she feels, in the best way. There’s so much support around her even when she doesn’t see it, and that was a lovely part of the story.
It’s hardest to see things up close, the things that affect you, clearly. Alex embodies that, because daaang did she feel dense AF sometimes! It got a bit frustrating to watch her keep running away from seemingly obvious feelings, but she got there in the end on her own path. Still, her emotional distance was a bit wearing, especially as she kept attributing it to being One of The Guys which simultaneously dismisses the idea that men can have, recognize, and/or express feelings. /sigh.
Overall, I enjoyed this as it was a lot of story and development packed into a fairly short amount of book. Between the life changes, setting changes, and character reflection, it moved along quickly and helped set the feeling that Alex had of time potentially running short.
Thanks to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a free advanced copy. This is my honest review!