Harrison Hanafan is not having a merry Christmas Eve. He hasn't come up with a good excuse to skip out on his rich, self-absorbed girlfriend Gertrude's holiday party yet and now, out on Manhattan's Madison and 34th, he takes a spectacular fall on the icy sidewalk, sprains his ankle and is helpless. Busy New Yorkers just walk past his prostrate form until a woman appears, pulls him up and bundles him into a taxi that she seems to have summoned by sheer force of will.
The sprained ankle is a blessing in disguise, since it lets Harrison hang out in his luxurious loft apartment, enjoying music and movies, and Bubbles, the cat he rescues. It also provides an excellent excuse to blow off Gertrude and not go do his job as a plastic surgeon, tweaking body parts that were perfectly fine to start with.
Harrison's unplanned sabbatical leads to a whole lot of introspection––particularly about his mother and his sister Bee––then another meeting with Mimi, his Christmas Eve rescuer, and a life-changing year.
This description probably makes the book sound like a straightforward, earnest story. Well, forget that. It's a crazy-quilt of narrative, musical scores, recipes, newspaper articles (fictional), and lists––lots and lots of lists. Harrison has a list of Melancholy Things, for example, that he adds to regularly.
The book is exuberant, romantic, heartbreaking, comic, political and clever. But it's one of those books that will divide readers, I suspect. So much of it is Harrison's musings or conversations with Mimi, and much is a feminist diatribe––which Ellmann has a (fictional) newspaper describe as bizarre, confused and eccentric. Some will see it as wacky ranting, but I was completely charmed and carried away. Ellmann's one-and-a-half page sentence about Bubbles, for example, ended entirely highlighted on my e-reader so that I can easily find it to re-read. Even at its low moments, there was something joyous about this story; a celebration of all the things that make life worth living (yes, complete with lists).
Ellmann's list-making got to me, I guess. I made my own list of adjectives about the book:
I recommend Mimi to anyone who enjoys oddball characters and eccentric storytelling––and who isn't averse to some feminist ranting (not that there's anything wrong with that––the feminist ranting, I mean).
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book.