By: Heather Harpham
Published Year: 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Folks, we have another book off of Reese Witherspoon’s book club list! Meghan was the picker this month and honestly didn’t know that this book had been on Reese’s book club list a year ago when she picked it.
Summary (Provided by 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.
What I thought
Heather and Brian are a couple and living in New York. Brian has no desire for children but Heather does. When Heather gets pregnant, Brian makes it clear he doesn’t want to be a part of the baby’s life and recommends that Heather head back to California to be with her family. When the baby is born with a life threatening illness, Heather has to learn how to move forward as a single parent and Brian has to decide whether or not he wants to be a part of Heather and their child’s lives.
I have read a decent amount of memoirs and I find that when I’ve truly enjoyed one, I feel better for having read them. As clichéd as it sounds, I feel like a good memoir leaves me feeling like my life has been changed for the better. Unfortunately, I did not feel that way after reading this one.
I found the style of the beginning of the book to be confusing and disorienting which made it hard to get into. The first part of the book is told in alternating paragraphs basically. One paragraph is about the story of how Heather and Brian met and fell in love and the other is the birth and subsequent emergency of the baby. I didn’t care about the relationship at that point as I wanted to know what was going on with the baby. I feel like that ended up setting the tone for me for the entire book. I just found I didn’t care about Heather and Brian even though I knew that I should and that there was a lot of insight to be had in their interactions.
There were also moments in the story where I wanted to scream and yell and throw the book across the room. Not because of the unfairness of the situation, but because of the way things were being handled. It infuriated me.
Ultimately, while I found it to be an interesting story that had some good points, it’s just not one that reached me. I don’t have that feeling of “OMG this is amazing and something everyone needs to read!”
What Book Club Thought
It seems like everyone pretty much felt the same way that I did. There were bits and pieces that we appreciated and definitely parts that we found interesting, but overall it wasn’t a book that we loved. It did lead to some fun science discussion and a little bit of moral compass discussion. I would say that if this book sounds interesting to you that you should read it with a group so that you can discuss it with people.