January blues? Yeah I feel you, but I've got the perfect antidote:
Carrying Albert Home
In 1930s America, Elsie Lavender finds herself stuck in the coalfields of West Virginia with her stoical husband and Albert, an alligator and the sole memento of her time spent in Florida and the man she loved there. It's not all fun and games living with an alligator, at least not for her husband Homer, who offers Elsie an ultimatum: me, or the alligator. Elsie decides that there is only one thing for it, they must carry Albert back home to Florida.
So begins their whirlwind journey across America. On the way they encounter all manner of obstacles and people (including Hemingway and Steinbeck), and have the most wonderful and occasionally terrifying adventures.
Carrying Albert Home is a fantastically feel good novel with a serious dose of happiness in every page. I smiled until my cheeks hurt and laughed out loud on more than one occasion.
Albert carries the novel in my opinion and is such a wonderfully written character. It seems strange to say that about an alligator, but he truly is larger than life. Any mention of his 'toothy grin' and the 'yeah-yeah-yeah' sound he makes put a smile on my face. I think 'endearing' is the perfect word to describe him and, even though I read this novel all the way back in November, he's stuck with me.
Although I'd call this a mood-boosting novel, there is still a lot of depth to it and the characters have their struggles. Homer and Elsie are so very real as people (they are based on the author's parents) and you could take away the adventures and the alligator and their journey would still be a heartwarming one because, ultimately, it's more about finding their home with each other than it is about getting Albert back to Florida. It's a love story really - not in the traditional sense, but in a much more real and adult sense. Elsie and Homer have lost each other and forgotten what their love is. Metaphorically this journey is about finding themselves and each other, and boy is it a beauty.
I always find January to be such a miserable month so settling down with Carrying Albert Home and a mug of tea could be just what the doctor ordered.
Can you recommend any other feel good books for January?