Paper Angels by Billy Coffey
Paper Angels is a small book, not quite 250 pages, but almost every page is packed with a profound thought. It is simply one of the best books I have read all year. I liked his first novel, Snow Day but I absolutely loved Paper Angels.
Andy Somerville is not your average person. No, since the age of ten he has had an angel with him . . . a lot of the time. He does not know when the “Old Man” is going to show up or how he is going to impact him. What Andy does learn fairly quickly is that it’s hard to have normal relationships with other people when you are being shadowed by an angel who wants to keep you on the right track and who talks to you when you should be listening to other people. Nevertheless, having an angel at his side becomes Andy’s “normal.”
At some point, the Old Man urges Andy to start a memory box. Into this small box go mementos of people and times that have been important to him. As our story opens, Andy is in the hospital, recovering from severe burns sustained at the gas station he owns. His angel has appeared to him for one last time and in his place at Andy’s side is Elizabeth. Andy believes Elizabeth to be a counselor for the hospital and slowly opens up to her about his life. Someone has brought the wooden box of mementos to the hospital and Andy goes through the box with Elizabeth, telling her what each memento represents and why it was important in his life. As he shares lifetime memories with Elizabeth, he slowly starts to see and understand his life in a whole new way. It’s important to note that Elizabeth cuts out a series of paper angels as she spends hours with Andy.
Just to give you a flavor for the conversations held between Andy and Elizabeth, here is a short passage: “’People are made for more than they usually become, Andy. That’s not to say that’s their fault. Life gets in the way sometimes, and it’s easy for people to lose their perspective. They forget about the things that matter because the things that don’t can seem so big and so necessary.’ Elizabeth paused long enough to make the universal sign of crazy by moving the scissors in a looping motion around her ear. ‘Gets their thinking all screwed up. I’m not talking about a job, I’m talking about a purpose. That’s two different things. One gives you a living and the other gives you a life.’”
As Andy talks with Elizabeth, he discovers what the most important things in his life are and a gets a taste of what the future may hold for him. With this new knowledge, Andy Somerville can go from just living to having a meaningful life.
I would happily recommend this book to everyone because it contains nuggets of wisdom for all.