Happiness by Heather Harpham

Happiness by Heather Harpham

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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. Β 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

 

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

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Cover image provided with permission from HarperCollins

I keep telling people how much I enjoyed this book and I get uncomfortable, embarrassed looks in return based on the title. If you also feel a little shy because of the first two words of the book’s name, don’t worry you are not alone! However that’s not worth skipping out just because of the title, I absolutely loved it.

Nikki, the modern daughter of Indian immigrants to London, has become a little lost in her search of what exactly she wants to do with her life. She picks up a side job in what she assumes will be teaching creative writing to women in the local Sikh community of Southall. However when she begins working with the women she realizes:

  1. Their idea of creative writing is much more “creative” than anything she could’ve ever imagined (see: the title).
  2. The women who attend her class are for the most part, illiterate.

Although at first she is a bit patronizing of her students, as she learns more about them Nikki’s relationships with these women grows, in many ways hilariously, but also with a twist of heart-warming friendship. On top of the amazingly original premise of the book, it also contains a mystery and a love-story. And in case you were wondering, yes, there really are erotic stories in the novel, albeit not an extreme amount, but if that is 100% not your thing then it’s better to be forewarned.

Jaswal’s book is beautiful in its first-person account of life as an immigrant, and a first-generation children trying to navigate life on a completely different path from their parents. The book made me think of the sacrifices mothers and fathers often make for their children so that they can have better opportunities, and how children struggle with meeting the expectations their hard-working, ever-sacrificing parents have for them:

“You waste everything because you’ve always had everything.”

This was Reese Witherspoon’s bookclub pick for March 2018, and I couldn’t agree with her more; I found this story thoroughly delightful from start to finish and would would recommend this to a reader looking for a fun, open-hearted, plot-driven story that’s fast-paced and has something for everyone: a love, mystery, friendship, personal growth, and yes, erotica.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Publication Date: June 13th, 2017

I read this as: A library book (hardback)