Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Three Rivers Press. 2005.

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(Note: books are rated between one and five smiley faces, one being a book that I didn’t like all that much, and five being a book I loved.)

How come I was completely unaware that this book existed? It seems like a book that should have come my way long before now, but nope. There I was, browsing the “new books” shelves (I so love the PV Library for having its “new books” section be a “new-to-us” section, affording me the opportunity to find little gems like this that I might have missed when they were first published) when this caught my eye. I loved the disclaimer on the front cover,

I have not survived against all odds

I have not lived to tell.

I have not witnessed the extraordinary.

This is my story.

How could I resist? I opened the book to discover that, yes, it really is an encyclopedia of an ordinary life — at least, in format. After checking it out and finishing it in less than 24 hours (unheard of. I am a “nurser” of books, typically, not a gobbler. Give me The Cat in the Hat, and I can make it last for weeks), I can tell you it is much more than that. Quirky? Yes. Funny? Yes. Extraordinarily compelling? Yes. Yes. Yes.

Rosenthal’s unusual little memoir made her seem like someone I know, someone I remember, someone with whom I used to hang out all the time before both our lives pulled us in different directions and we became nothing more than annual Christmas cards to each other. But she also reminded me of friends I leftΒ in Connecticut, of friends I email all over the country, of friends I meet for lunch and dinner here in Lancaster County. In short, she reminded me oh-so-much of a woman living in the early years of the 21st century, born sometime in the latter years of the 20th century, enjoying life when she can, doing her best to embrace it and herself, while being very unafraid to laugh. In other words, someone living and observing a very ordinary life. You might be tempted to forget how extraordinary it is that she managed to do so as if she were writing a reference book, but don’t. That’s what makes it so original and charming.