Sometimes I enjoy a sappy movie. Field of Dreams. A League of Their Own. Bull Durham. Well, I guess I like sappy baseball movies. But still. The sentiment is the same. It is ok to occasionally enjoy a movie where it is obvious how it is going to turn out after about ten minutes of screen time. It doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the movie. It just means that you have to ignore the most obvious indications so that the ending can deliver an emotional punch.
If you go in to An Elegy for Amelia Johnson with the same attitude, then you are in for an enjoyable read. Be sure to pack a hanky for the ending.
In her 30 years on earth, Amelia Johnson has touched many lives with her compassion, intelligence and spirit. Now, at the end of a year-long battle with cancer, she asks her two closest friends to take her final messages to the people who have touched her life the most. Henry Barrons is a cocky, Oscar©-winning documentary filmmaker whose demeanor hides deep insecurities. Jillian Webb is an acclaimed magazine writer with an inability to make long-term commitments. They set out across the country to fulfill Amelia’s dying wish…and end up learning more about her—and themselves—than they ever imagined.
From just the set-up alone you can tell where this is going. The real trick in a book like this is making the reader still care enough to stick with the characters for the journey, instead of just skipping to the inevitable ending.
Andrew Rostan delivers a story which combines the depression of a cancer story with theadventure of a cross-country scavenger hunt and the mania of attempting to create a product capable of summing up a person’s entire life in a short film. This odd combination is what keeps the book from becoming just another sappy tale of a person dying of cancer while her two friends fall in love. The road trip element distracts us (and the characters) from the love story and focuses on piecing together the life of Amelia. No longer is she a cancer victim, but a complex character who led a life that neither of her closest friends fully understood. As they discover more about her, they discover more about life and living.
The art is handled by Dave Valeza and Kate Kasenow. It is simple black line work without any grey-tones. I am reminded of Andi Watson a bit in the execution, with maybe a hint of Tezuka in the female characters. I wish I could say that the art was particularly strong or memorable, but it wasn’t. Again, this is not to say that it was bad. In the perspective of a sappy movie, can any of us really remember much about the cinematography, costuming, or set design? It is all about the story and getting the characters to their inevitable end. With that in mind, Valeza and Kasenow did a fine job.
In the end, An Elegy for Amelia Johnson does not break any new ground. It is a good, if predictable, story which will keep your interest all the way through. The ending hist all the right chords and tugs at your heartstrings, just as it should.
This book was originally published in 2011, but a new edition is out soon from Archaia.
Check out a free preview here.