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The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks

My rating: 3.5 of 5

ebook, 400 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Sourcebooks Landmark
Available on: Kindle, Paperback

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What they say:

Readers will adore this heartfelt, one-of-a-kind debut and the charming, quirky characters tramping through its pages. Written in sly, quick-witted prose and filled with soul, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster will have you thinking, smiling, and wondering if you can find your own magic door. – Michelle Gable, international bestselling author of A Paris Apartment

What I have to say:

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster is a book that had me at hello. The title intrigued me and I liked the sound of it. The word “lemoncholy” was my favorite part. I had never heard that word but I enjoyed saying it over and over. And then once you open the book, the first thing you read is the definition of lemoncholy which made me love the word even more. I can absolutely relate to its meaning, as my life has been in a permanent state of lemoncholy. Anyway, this is a great book title.

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks Book Cover

Then there’s that bright lemony yellow cover with the turquoise flower flourishes that is impossible to miss. I saw this cover and I knew I had to read this book. The antique mailbox with the 2 birdies is another lovely detail which compliments the cover beautifully. The composition is great and I see how it relates to our 2 main characters. Although having read the book, I think instead of a mailbox, the red door would’ve been better element of choice for the cover, as it is such an important object for the story than the mailbox. But that’s just me being picky. The cover is gorgeous, whimsical and charming.

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster takes place in Kansas and San Francisco in two different periods of time. It is the story of Annabelle Aster, “Annie”, a peculiar twentysomething woman who loves to dress in vintage Victorian clothes and lives in a purple house in San Francisco in 1995; and Elsbeth Grundy, a widowed retired teacher who lives in a cabin in the plains of central Kansas in 1895.

We meet Elsbeth first, when one morning she finds that a purple house has appeared out of nothing in the wheat fields. A house whose door she can’t knock because every time she tries to do it she finds herself back at the gate of a picket fence. Elsbeth is not thrilled with whoever is invading her property and decides to send a letter with her objections via a brass mailbox on the fence.

Annie is the recipient of said letter. She is also surprised to suddenly have found a wheat field in her garden, a cabin in the horizon and a brass mailbox on a fence. And so begins a correspondence between these two women whose lives are more intertwined than they would know. Two women in you could say “different time zones” that bond via hand written letters and who with the help of loyal friends solve the mystery behind a murder and discover how and why they are able to communicate despite the passing of time.

I couldn’t put this book down. It was fast paced and I had no problem in going back and forth in time as I read. The premise of the story was great. But as much as I liked the premise, in the end I couldn’t quite adore the book. I liked it but not that much, so I gave it a rating of 3.5 out of 5. And here’s why:

The cast of characters is presented as a band of misfits, which is absolutely true, you would never expect such a miscellaneous group of friends like the one in the book, and neither did they expect to bond the way they did. Additional to Annie and Elsbeth, you have: Christian, the perfect male best friend, always taking care of Annie, giving her the best of himself despite of his inner suffering and battles. Edmond, the stranger who helps Christian and Annie as well. The almost “fairy-like” godmother without whom Annie would have never survived in the past and present. Nathaniel, the handsome man that falls in love with Annie. And last but not least Culler, the bad guy/murderer, who pays for all his bad deeds in the end.

These characters play important roles in the story as it was presented, but I couldn’t quite fully bond with them because even though they were supposed to be peculiar, to me they felt too cliché, some of their side stories could be skipped and the ways they were related or intertwined felt like forced not believable coincidences. Some characters where important for the author and he had to put them in his book, but you don’t understand that until you read the interview at the end of the book. Oh and the Danyer-Culler situation didn’t convince me in the end. I would have to meticulously re-read this book to see if what happens in the end ties up with the events at the beginning of the story because right now it just doesn’t add up.

Another thing that didn’t do it for me was the insta-love stories.

What really kept me from loving this book was that in the end, the time traveling was kept a loose end. The door which is a very important character in the story, and the process of time-travel are not fully explained. How it happens is a mystery that only its creator and those who read the instructions in the journal would know. There’s a part where it’s stated that the portal was reset, and the reader just has to take that it happens. The characters and the events in the book felt so real, that I needed a valid explanation for all of this, but the how or whys of time travel are a mystery to the reader from the beginning to the end.

And finally, I don’t want to spoil it too much for you, but there is a character that is sick and thanks to the time travel gets cured. I never fully understood what this person’s illness was and in the end this person is just cured. Being that the story takes place in 1995, the fact that the doctors didn’t find anything fishy on the donor just didn’t convince me. And you invest so much time getting to know the character, that not knowing the details of the miraculous recovery is not enjoyable as a reader.

Don’t be misled; these are the things that didn’t quite add up in my opinion, but it’s just me being critical.

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster is a good book. 3.5 / 5 is a good rating in my book. This is a good story that has time travel, murder, mystery, action, friendship, love and family reunions. It makes you think what you would do if you could time travel. I personally think if I could time travel, I would do it just to be a tourist back in time. I would do it just to observe how it all was back then, but wouldn’t dare interfere with events that could possibly change history.

In the end, for me this was not a book about time travel. It is a book about 5 loners who become a family, because a family is not made only of people with whom you share DNA, but of people with whom you share bonds of respect and joy in each other’s lives.

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster is a good summer read. It is a book that will keep you guessing what will happen next until the end. It is a good choice for book clubs who could discuss on subjects such as homosexuality, drug abuse, homelessness, child neglect and family.

NewWords Button by Bloggeretterized

  • Geode. noun. A small cavity in rock lined with crystals or other mineral matter.
  • Stymieing. verb. To hinder, block, or thwart.

Lessons Learnt Button by Bloggeretterized

The past is nothing more than the present romanticized, while the future is history with imagination.


Perhaps that is the way of friends, to love one another for their imperfections, not despite them, he decided.


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I received an Electronic copy of this book but was not financially compensated in any way nor obliged to review. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my personal experience while reading it. This post contains affiliate links as stated in my disclosure policy.