My Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.
Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant – Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn’t want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie’s arrival, Heather’s bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, “Get dressed, your baby is in trouble.”
This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled “like sliced apples and salted pretzels” but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie’s condition grows dire; together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood.
The grace and humor that ripple through Harpham’s writing transform the dross of heartbreak and parental fears into a clear-eyed, warm-hearted view of the world. Profoundly moving and subtly written, Happiness radiates in many directions – new, romantic love; gratitude for a beautiful, inscrutable world; deep, abiding friendship; the passion a parent has for a child; and the many unlikely ways to build a family. Ultimately it’s a story about love and happiness, in their many crooked configurations.
I’m grateful that Heather Harpham chose to write her experiences and share them in a book as a way for others to attempt to understand what she went through. I recently read an article on LitHub about the importance and power of ‘regular person memoirs’, or, essentially, someone going through something that many other people do. While having a sick child is not the most commonplace experience, it’s certainly more common than we’d like to think. It was astonishing to read about Gracie’s childhood and how her illness impacted her family.
Harpham’s writing style is simple, straightforward, and also meaningful. She writes eloquently about loss, motherhood, growing up, love, and family. I appreciate that she does not shy away from these difficult experiences. Instead, Harpham leans into them in order to better understand what happened. The title and subtitle of this book are spot on and make even more sense as the story progresses. Happiness is not always as straightforward as one might think. Instead, we must find our own ways to be happy and to find moments of happiness within more trying times. And as for the ‘crooked little road to semi-ever after’? I think it suggests that nothing is permanent and life does not always trod along as we’d expect. But despite life’s twists and turns, we can still find happiness.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I am amazed that Harpham was able to recount her experiences for others to read. She does so with grace, humility, and love. I read this book as an act of love for her family, through good times and bad. This is a pretty quick read and I would definitely recommend it. I think it would be a great choice for book clubs!
This book is…
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Page Count: 320
Available here from IndieBound.
Have you read Happiness? What memoirs would you recommend?
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