Happiness by Heather Harpham

Happiness by Heather Harpham

Cover image provided with permission from Henry Holt & Co.

When I reflect on this book, I think of one word: Grace. It’s a story where many things go wrong, but then there are moments of miraculous blessings. Where people are given second chances after making poor decisions, and some are given the ultimate gift of life after looking death right in the eye. Unfortunately, it’s a story where the unthinkable happens, the death of children-innocents-and it reminds me of the lyrics from Hamilton, after Alexander’s son is killed:

There are moments that the words don’t reach

There is a Grace too powerful to name

We push away what we can never understand

We push away the unimaginable

Ultimately, I consider the grace with which Harpham weaves several stories that tell how she became the mother of a very sick little girl, how she fought for her with all her might, and how through a great deal of suffering and countless moments of despair, she found happiness, in spite of everything stacked against that outcome.

This book is a memoir in which Harpham deftly describes how she became pregnant with her daughter, Gracie, how this strained her relationship with Gracie’s father, Brian; a man who although loving her deeply, was terrified of parenthood and walked away from their relationship during the pregnancy (the worst I know, but Harpham tells the story so beautifully and with such clarity that you almost see where he’s coming from. Almost.) Once Gracie is born, it’s clear that she is sick, she must undergo regular blood transfusions to keep her alive. What follows is a beautiful story of hope, love, strength, heartbreak and resiliency as this little clan goes through setbacks and surprises to make Gracie well.

What I really loved about this story is Harpham’s ability to understand other people, to forgive and connect with them in a way many of us simply are not capable of.  She’s able to see her own pain, her own unlucky hand, and still find goodness and offer kindness to others. While the book’s title is Happiness, so hopefully it doesn’t spoil anything to say it has a happy ending, she points out that going through this experience doesn’t make her immune to future sadness. I find that a very brave way to look at the world.

This is a great book for someone looking for a very moving story, who is not afraid to cry a good deal while reading it. Harpham’s writing is seriously top-notch and she is a gifted story-teller, I could not put this one down because I had to know what was happening in this little world, to this family and the people who surrounded them. If you are looking for a book about family, grit, and love, this one is for you.

Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After by Heather Harpham

Published on: August 1, 2017

I read this as: a library book


That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

Alam, Rumaan 2018.02This book was not what I thought it was going to be at all. It started almost as a superficial take on motherhood (it’s hard y’all!), but turns into this beautiful dissertation  on the happenstance of life, family, and race relations in America.

What I like about this book is that the characters are flawed in very real ways, weaknesses that we can see in ourselves if we really look closely. Rebecca, the protagonist, is an optimist, which sometimes prevents her from seeing the truth; she acts selfishly at times, yet she does so out of love; she tries not to see herself as a “White hero”, but she takes secret pride and shame from her role as one. It also speaks a lot of truth about race relations in America: some scenes were uncomfortable, yet were so real they took me back to moments when I realized a person of color was being treated differently that I was, a white female.

This is not a plot-driven novel, but I enjoyed every moment reading it as the characters were so well developed I kept reading to see if they came out okay. Alam does a brilliant job of writing about women, I don’t think I could describe breast-feeding as accurately as he writes, and I have actually breast-fed! I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in motherhood, family, adoption, and American race relations.

That Kind of Mother by Rumaan Alam

Publication date: May 8, 2018

I read this as: Edelweiss ARC

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

I tend Finn, AJ 2018.02to enjoy a psychological thriller: the fast-paced story that you can’t put down and that everyone is talking about; they’re just good reads, even if there are holes/weird endings/characters acting unbelieveably. Which is to say, most psychological thrillers.

I’m not saying “The Woman in the Window” is a perfect story that is untouchable from having holes punched in it, but for me it was richer and more layered than most of the suspense novels I’ve read in the last few years. There are the regular references to Hitchcock films, which I initially thought was gimicky, but as I got into the book, I began to see the connections to the story-line and created a noir richness. There were also a few surprises and twists that in addition to catching me off guard, added meaning to the novel’s central story. I also found the story’s protagonist, Anna, to be sympathetic, even though all she does for half the book is get sloshed and spy on her neighbors, sounds like a good time in theory, right?

Finn’s first novel felt like a story that he had to write, as opposed to those seemingly piggy-backing on the “Gone Girl” style of unreliable narrator story-telling that we’ve seen again since Gillian Flynn’s novel came out in 2012. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a plot-driven thriller, especially if they enjoy and have seen a lot of old movies.

The Woman in the  Window by A.J. Finn

Publication date:  January 2, 2018

I read this as: Audible eAudiobook

A Matter of Chance by Julie Maloney

A Matter of Chance by Julie Maloney

Maddy Stewart loses her child, eight year old Vinni, suddenly during a Maloney, Julie 2018.02day at the beach. The book progresses in exploring every emotion a mother would go through in the desperate search for her baby. Ultimately this book is about the pain of this loss, Maloney thoughtfully weaves the experience through stories and interactions as Maddy tries to find reason while enduring unspeakable heartbreak. The book really does explore what this experience would be like: would you even want to live? Could you stand looking at happy families together? Could you find the strength to use your experience to help others?

The characters in this novel are well developed, although this is not a plot-driven suspense story. I would compare this book to a TV mini-series as it has lots of interesting characters, but if it was going to be made into a movie, a lot of the story would need to be cut out. Ultimately this novel is for someone interested in the psychology of loss, motherhood, resliance, and maybe a little bit of a thrill.

A Matter of Chance by Julie Maloney

Publication date: April 10, 2018

I read this as: Edelweiss ARC