Monday, June 10, 2019

Book Review - Happiness: A Memoir: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After, by Heather Harpham

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

The next night, when Gracie cried, Brian laid an arm across my chest, “Hang on,” he said. “Give her a minute.” Though I’d asked for his help earlier, I was stunned: where did he get off? Alarm bells were trilling in my head: GET BABY. Brian’s arm was a steady, warm weight on my chest.

“She can do it,” he whispered. Who the hell was he to tell me how to respond? He’d already missed more than half the movie. Did biology alone entitle him to chime in?

Inside this queasy miasma I was the smallest bit grateful. He considered her cries his problem too. Within a few minutes her cries wound down. Maybe she sensed his determination; his faith in her. Whatever she felt, or didn’t, she flopped over and sighed. Snuffled and grunted, but did not cry again.

The title of this one made me a little nervous. I’ve seen books that claimed to have ‘Happiness’ before that I just didn’t agree with. This was so much more – they found happiness when circumstances dictated that this would be the last thing possible.

Official synopsis:
Book Review - Happiness: A Memoir: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After, by Heather Harpham
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.

While a book about a child—an infant, even—who has a potentially terminal blood disorder may be expected to be sad or depressing, the author (and mother of the child) in Happiness managed to make this book about so much more. It was a memoir about her life, and then her life with her child. While being central to their life, she somehow made the child’s struggles not the reason behind all of their choices.

I loved that we got to know all the characters independent of their roles with the child’s illness. The story wasn’t just about taking care of the child and navigating her medical situation. It was about a mother, her child, the parent’s relationship with each other, and valuing life when you know how fragile it can be. And while not focusing on illness, it was about how important being a marrow donor can be, and the lives that could be saved.

In case you couldn’t tell, I really liked this book a lot. It reads like a great story, and then remembering it’s all based on real lives makes it that much more touching. I’d give this memoir 4.5 out of 5 stars.

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley is a mother of two, who’s almost too old to be a marrow donor, and wishes she’d known about years ago. She also blogs at


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