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The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince…

The Underside of Joy

by Seré Prince Halverson

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1853163,896 (4.04)7



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READ THIS BOOK. My mom recommended it to me when she finished. I asked if it was good, and she cited the sentence: "And Annie and Zach would zoom out the door each morning on their ever-growing limbs, each taking giant leaps along the ever-shortening path of their childhood." This book is full of such lines - unique ways the author thought to describe ordinary occurrences and ideas. The story itself was interesting and well-done, but the words made this book a joy (no pun intended) to read. It is Seré Prince Halverson's first novel, and I'm eagerly awaiting more from her. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
This is the story of Ella who is fighting for custody of her step-children after the unexpected death of her husband. ( )
  teeth | Apr 28, 2013 |
Joe Jr's death starts a series of unforeseen events for Ella who thought her life was so idllyic. This story is a true testament to the concept that there are no simple answers and each one of us is a complex entity composed of so many events and people that shaped our lives as we continue to shape the lives of others. Well done for debut novel; good for book discussion. ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
For starters, I loved everything about this book! I read it in less than a day and wish it kept going!

This story is filled with heartbreak and happiness, sadness and joy and everything in between.

When Ella's husband Joe dies in a sudden accident, she is left in mourning and at the same time has to remain strong for her two step-children, Annie and Zack. Paige is Annie and Zack's mother and returns to the family after she hears of her ex-husbands passing. Ella and Paige love the children, but the story begs the question of what makes a mother? Is it the woman who gave birth to you and then had to leave for your own safety or the woman who steps in after this? Ella and Paige fight for custody of the children while dealing with other family members secrets and fears.

Fabulous book! ( )
  jess0124 | Feb 2, 2013 |
Set in the richly described small town of Elbow, California, this novel tracks a family through grief and joy, exploring the complex bonds of family and the true meaning of motherhood. Halverson's prose is descriptive and emotionally charged, but never overly dramatic or forced. Her characters are real people with real faults and feelings, and she writes them in such a way that you feel each moment, good and bad, alongside them.

I strongly felt the author's desire to show empathy both for Paige and for Ella, though the story is told from Ella's perspective. As the two women navigate the very rocky and always dirty minefield of child custody following the loss of Ella's husband Joe, the reader feels for both women - there is nothing easy or obvious in that minefield.

The lush natural setting of vineyards and river imbue this novel with a warm and homey atmosphere, the ideal setting for a family story. I highly recommend this novel, it will make you question your ideas on family, on love and on grief - once I started reading I couldn't put it down, though I was dreading what might happen next. I give The Underside of Joy five stars. ( )
  smileydq | Jul 27, 2012 |
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I recently read a study that claimed happy people aren't made.  They're born.  Happiness, the report pointed out, is all about genetics - a cheerful gene passed merrily, merrily down from one smiling generation to the next.  I know enough about life to understand the old adage that one person can't make you happy, or that money can't buy happiness.  But I'm not buying this theory that your bliss can only be as deep as your gene pool.

For three years, I did backflips in the deep end of happiness.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0525952594, Hardcover)

Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson's compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.

To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. Yet one summer day Joe breaks his own rule-never turn your back on the ocean-and a sleeper wave strikes him down, drowning not only the man but his many secrets.

For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known and has believed that their biological mother, Paige, abandoned them. But when Paige shows up at the funeral, intent on reclaiming the children, Ella soon realizes there may be more to Paige and Joe's story. "Ella's the best thing that's happened to this family," say her close-knit Italian-American in-laws, for generations the proprietors of a local market. But their devotion quickly falters when the custody fight between mother and stepmother urgently and powerfully collides with Ella's quest for truth.

The Underside of Joy is not a fairy-tale version of stepmotherhood pitting good Ella against evil Paige, but an exploration of the complex relationship of two mothers. Their conflict uncovers a map of scars-both physical and emotional-to the families' deeply buried tragedies, including Italian internment camps during World War II and postpartum psychosis.

Weaving a rich fictional tapestry abundantly alive with the glorious natural beauty of the novel's setting, Halverson is a captivating guide through the flora and fauna of human emotion-grief and anger, shame and forgiveness, happiness and its shadow complement . . . the underside of joy.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:01:28 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the aftermath of her beloved husband's drowning death, Ella's initial support from her in-laws dissolves as long-buried secrets and family tragedies are revealed in the wake of a bitter custody battle against her stepchildren's biological mother.

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