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Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After

by Heather Harpham

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13624145,156 (4.2)3
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.… (more)

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» See also 3 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I always say that it's hard to write a very good short story or a memoir that draws you in. Unfortunately I was not engaged at all while reading this. Instead I found myself getting bored and just rushing through chapters. Harpham's memoir doesn't cause me to feel a thing which is weird considering the subject matter (her newborn daughter is born with a fatal disease) but maybe that is due to her obsessing over the relationship with her ex, then boyfriend, and eventual husband.

I think the writing was trying too hard. In the right hands I think this memoir could have been really good. Instead I shook my head over Harpham talking about how she wrote Fiona Apple lyrics down when professing her love to the man she's dating. Maybe that's why I didn't like this book, I felt like I was reading a diary of someone who is in their teens throughout this.

The flow is off as well. We go back and forth between destinations and treatments for her daughter. Eventually we find out what happened to everyone (all is well) and I just ended feeling dissatisfied when I got to the end. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
I read this book in almost one sitting, I didn't exactly enjoy it cause it was fairly sad and mostly set in a hospital, but it was well written and it did end on a high note. ( )
  Linyarai | Feb 16, 2020 |
Loved it! Usually I don't find nonfiction books to be page-turners. But this one was an exception. I couldn't wait to get back to it, and was not sure how things would turn out until the very end. Loved the author's honesty, and even when she made bad choices, I wanted the best for her. ( )
  pridel | Jan 6, 2020 |
I cannot stress how important it is for you to read this wonderfully complex book. I am not a memoir reader, but I read every word. ( )
  Kikoa | Apr 23, 2018 |
I thought this memoir was good, not great, which is why I'm giving it a 3.5.

What Heather Harpham went through with her daughter's health trauma is something I wouldn't wish upon anybody. How horrific to have to live years and years of surviving day by day, hoping and praying that this day is not your child's last. That she doesn't come upon some unseen germ that will end her life. Just the tiniest things could change the path of her life and that is just about the most frightening thing I can imagine a mother to have to go through. It puts me off wanting to have kids at all, knowing the terrible things they can be subjected to at no fault of your own. How can you keep a child safe in this world? How can you can protect them against something like bad blood? I can't fathom it. I have endless respect for the strength of the author and her children.

What kept me from really loving this story was the writing style; that is, not the story itself. Somehow, even though I don't doubt all of this to have been true and Ms. Harpham makes clear in the beginning that the story she tells is based off of her memory, which is not perfect, I just didn't really...believe all of it. Not the major parts, of course I believe that her daughter went through a nightmare that no child, or human, for that matter, should have to go through. It's just some of the things that were said.

You'll find this to be a pattern of mine.

I am very, very, very adamant that the language used is realistic. It makes my skin crawl and my eyes roll when authors use words or phrases that just aren't true to life, or true to the age of the character or person in the story. Just see my last review, I had a similar complaint. I'm very consistent in this manner.

All this being said, I felt that the author may have taken a few too many liberties with the profound, deep, thoughtful things her two children frequently said, both under the age of five. I am aware that children say the darndest things, that they can sound philosophical without meaning it, but just how often? How often until it no longer feels genuine and feels instead like a baby Gandhi or baby Mother Theresa is speaking? I'm not calling Ms. Harpham a liar, by no means. Memory can be a fickle thing. Her daughter is now in her teen years and Gracie was sick as a child, so certainly there are things and sayings and actions and phrases that slipped through the cracks and were forgotten over the many years. We remember things how we want to. We remember things how we need to. This is human nature. With that in mind, to me, Ms. Harpham made Gracie sounded like a mini-prophet, almost always. I didn't buy it. Too cheesy for me.

That was my biggest problem with it, and again, the author appropriately addresses the fact that she relies on her memory for this memoir and that memory is not infallible. So, fair play.

Thank you to the author and the publishers for the opportunity to read this book in advance. ( )
  tuf25995 | Jan 14, 2018 |
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