Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: The Ten Best Days of My Life, by Adena Halpern

The Ten Best Days of My Life is not the kind of book I would normally buy. I typically stay far away from fluffy "chick lit" titles -- they're just not my thing. But last summer, two different forces led me to Adena Halpern's lighthearted look at the afterlife: 1) For my redbox gig, I wrote about the upcoming adaptation of the novel (starring Amy Adams) and thought it sounded interesting, and 2) I had just wrapped up my manuscript for Zero-Sum Game and was desperate for something -- anything -- to read that would require absolutely zero brain power. I needed to decompress.

So I got the book and finished it during a short stay in NYC followed by a weekend jaunt to the Hamptons with my friend Miss M. It was the perfect companion for lazy mornings at the beach. The story revolves around Alex, a fairly shallow and materialistic 29-year-old who finds herself in heaven after she and her dog Peaches die in an unfortunate accident. Alex must reflect back on her life and write an essay about her "ten best days" in order to make it to a higher level of the Great Beyond -- a level where there are more perks, like cute guys, fab clothes and shoes, and a reunion with her doggy (all pets automatically go to "Seventh Heaven," you see).

To my surprise, despite the fact that about 80% of the story was totally silly, I was so moved by Alex's few introspective moments and "lessons learned" that I cried (very hard) at the end. It was a case where although Halpern's writing left much to be desired -- she repeated certain words and phrases constantly (a big pet peeve of mine), and Alex was annoying and selfish and completely unrelatable -- I agreed so strongly with the book's overall message that I forgave its many faults. The story made me think about what the most pivotal days of my life have been -- and more importantly, why I consider those days to be so special.

So would I recommend The Ten Best Days of My Life? Sure. I've already forewarned you that it's no literary masterpiece and that you'll probably want to strangle Alex (though she's already dead) throughout, but thankfully there is a sweet and important moral hidden within its pages. Plus, with Amy Adams attached to the movie (which is supposedly coming out this year... but there's no release date yet), it's probably worth reading the book now just to be able to compare and contrast its silver-screen translation with the original material. If you read it, don't forget to come back and let me know if you agree or disagree with my take!

No comments: