About a Boy by Nick Hornby:
A few days ago, I was having a bad day. I can't even recall the reasons it was bad, I just remember thinking that I wanted to get away from my stinky day for a while. Luckily, I had just gone to the library and had About a Boy sitting there, waiting for me. It was a lovely way to get lost, and I finished the book in a couple of sittings.
The story is divided: half the chapters we follow Will, 36, who is shallow and self centered - but lovably so. He doesn't work (he earns a living from royalties from a popular Christmas song - Santa's Super Sleigh - his father wrote in the 30s), he doesn't have any hobbies (unless you count shopping, watching telly - this book is thoroughly British - and doing recreational drugs) and he's the spitting image of Hugh Grant (I'm joking - this book was made into a movie starring Hugh Grant, in a role I think he was destined to play. I could not get his image out of my head as I read the book, so after a while I stopped trying).
The other half of the chapters, we get to follow Marcus around. He's 12 years old, has just moved to London with his depressed mother, gets seriously picked on at school and is a rather odd child. He does things like throw french loafs at ducks, inadvertently bursts out into song at inopportune moments and lacks the ability to recognize sarcasm. He has no friends (until he meets Ellie, who loves Nirvana and takes him on as a pet) and no idea how to help his mum when she goes into crying fits.
The meet cute is this: Will joins SPAT (Single Parents Alone Together) as a way to meet single mums to date (despite the fact that he is not a single parent, which is no problem at all for Will, and the results are hilarious). Will and Marcus meet at a SPAT event, and Marcus starts to show up at Will's door on a regular basis after that. Maybe they can provide each other something that is missing from both their lives?
I was laughing and smiling all through this book, on a day that would have normally seen me cranky and grumpy. For that, I am ever thankful. Hornby's writing is clever and witty ("they travelled to the hospital in as much silence as a screaming baby would allow."). And things that seem pretty lighthearted on the surface have meanings that the reader can ponder and relate to to: sure we can laugh that Will loafs around all day, but he's really looking to make his life meaningful. Marcus doesn't mind his crazy haircuts from his mum, but Will points out to him that a better haircut will help him blend in with the crowd more.
Light-hearted, and at times downright funny, with memorable characters that have hidden depths - an excellent way to transform a bad day into a much better one. I can't wait to read more by this author.