For anyone keeping track, my Goodreads list is out of date and I realize the running list of “want to read” I have is in my head and is of no help to you. I promise, for those of you who want to follow along in my reading adventures, I will work on getting Goodreads updated.
The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg is one of the first books I read this year. It was hands down the perfect book to kick off the new year. I received an advanced reader’s copy from NetGalley and the publisher.
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The Red Address Book is a tale of the people Doris met throughout her life, the good and the bad, all told through the entries in an address book her father gave her as a child.
Doris is 96 years old and lives alone in Stockholm, Sweden. She looks forward to weekly Skype chats with her grandniece Jenny, her only relative who resides in the US. Aside from a home health aide who visits and aids her with dressing and meals, Doris lives a mostly reclusive life.
So many names in her address book have been crossed out; died, and Doris often wonders why death hasn’t taken her yet. In order to leave behind more than just her address book filled with the names of the dead, Doris decides to hand down the only legacy she could to Jenny, her memories and stories of the people she met and loved throughout her life. Doris writes of one great romantic love and one platonic that you will wish was her great romance.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. Even though I had an inkling how it might end, it was still worth reading all the way through. When Doris winds up in the hospital after taking a fall, I found myself wanting to sit by her bedside, help her continue her writing and care for her until her niece arrived. It’s rare that I come across a character in a book that feels more alive than the words on the page but Doris is one of them.
Doris didn’t simply live one life, she lived many. Sold by her mother as a young girl, Doris first lived as a maid until she was sold off again to become a model in Paris. She chases after romance and crosses the country at the start of World War II with her younger sister in tow, and back again to Sweden. Through it all Doris chronicles her adventures and the people she met along the way. I imagine Doris, slightly hardened by her experiences, recanting some of the hardest moments matter of factly, and keeping emotions in check.
One of the themes of the book is what we hope to leave behind in this life, who we hope will inherit our memories and our possessions. Lundberg captures this perfectly in her book as she writes, “She hopes it will be Jenny who finds everything later, once Doris herself is dead. That it will be Jenny who reads and smiles at the pictures. Who inherits all of her beautiful things: the furniture, the paintings, the hand-painted cup. They won’t just be thrown out, will they?”
Who among us hasn’t had these very same thoughts? I know it’s one of those things that sit on my heart in the dark moments of life.
Lundberg flits between first and third person; first person as Doris recalls and records her stories for Jenny and third person to move the plot along. As a reader, I found this a wonderful way to carry the story along and differentiate between memories and the characters’ storylines.
This is one of those books that sits with me long after I’ve finished reading it. It was truly heart-wrenching and beautifully written. The Red Address Book is one of those books I could read again and again. It makes the perfect book club book and would make a beautiful transition from novel to the big screen (hint, hint Hollywood).