ABCs of ARCs

The A to Z of You and Me

James Hannah

Posted: March 1, 2016

The A to Z of You and Me

What a fitting book to start this off—a book inspired by the alphabet—and what a cute, wonderful book. I realize that many books shouldn’t be described as cute, but it’s the first word that comes to mind after finishing it. At first I expected it to be a young adult novel the way the cover looks (though with galleys they are never quite final until the printing) but it’s very much an adult novel with a bittersweet story of the only thing that seems to matter, love.

Told by a man in his forties, bed ridden in a hospice in England, we journey through his life through a game taught to him by Shelia, the nurse. The game is simple: go through the alphabet and pair each letter with a part of the body. As the man does this, he attaches a story, a memory from his life, all centered around his true love. Each chapter of the book is a different letter with a different body part (k is for kidney, o is for olfactory nerve). We see glimpses of his past mixed with his present conditions and reflections, all weaving together to create a “blanket” of a story (there is an important blanket in the book).

While others might think of the letter of the chapter as gimmicky, I thought the organization of it was creative, and it broke the book up into small, quick sections. Some chapters had multiple body parts while others only had one—it was a different way to tell a life story with this jumble of limbs, fitting for a man who is ailing.

I enjoyed it, plain and simple (which to be honest can be rare as you may find out—I tend to be picky). It was quirky and lovely, with heart. It wasn’t too sweet and you may want some tissues next to you while reading, but it wasn’t overdone with sappiness. Hannah managed to find a good balance between the two, allowing for an overall rounded story that felt complete at the end in just the right way.

The book is not without flaws, of course, like all books. The characters were fine, but a touch flat, including the main character; the changes that occur to him seemingly minor and expected. Overall, the book is a touch on the predictable side, though Hannah tries his best to hide what are assumed to be the big secrets and reveals. None of this, though, distracts from the story.

It’s not a life-changing book—it’s not going to win the Pulitzer by any means, but man, it’s just a good book; one that I found myself reading to enjoy, to discover this man’s story. I didn’t need a heavy-handed plot or a mystery to egg me on, it carried itself page after page. I typically lean towards more plot-based stories (here’s looking at you young adult!), finding backgrounds of characters to be tedious and often in excess—we understand you had a bad childhood, please, move forward.

Yet, here is a background based book and how nice it was; a great surprise to me. I think fans of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, would enjoy it. Light and fluffy without too much fluff choking it up. Hopefully there are more of these to come.