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Happy Now?: A Novel (2010)

by Katherine Shonk(Favorite Author)
3.34 of 5 Votes: 5
0374281432 (ISBN13: 9780374281434)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
review 1: I wonder if this book would have been different had Katherine Shonk written it in first person from Claire's perspective. I'd rather see the world through Claire's eyes than through a third person who is never identified. But ultimately, Shonk's writing style is rudimentary and feels like something I could have submitted to a college professor. Interesting enough plot (despite my concerns below) but executed poorly. My suspension of disbelief waned early on for many reasons (and this is because Shonk did not write in a believable way). Who has a dad who sits outside his daughter's house in his car from 7am to 9pm every day after her husband dies and never talks to her or even looks at her? And then follows her every time she leaves the house? Who actually commits suicide b... morey planning enough in advance to jump off a balcony on a weekday at party at a co-worker's house? Let alone does it on Valentine's Day? Let alone when that day happens to be the anniversary of his first date with his wife? Who has parents that get divorced and then go on monthly dates to the opera despite that the mother has remarried a 9-years-younger man, who just happens to be okay with these dates? And Claire, god, she seems so dull and I think that is because the writing is dull. And who is named Nomie? Plus, I'm not going to lie, when the second sentence of a new book I'm reading contains an over-used cliche (in this case, "chilled to the bone") I know the rest of the book is going to follow suit. Any writer who cannot think past a cliche for describing someone as cold is lazy.As someone who has struggled with depression, Shonk's writing doesn't help the reader understand it in any way. I have written far more vivid stories about it than anything contained in this book.
review 2: **Good Reads winner**"Happy Now?" is the fictional account of a young Midwest woman named Claire who becomes a widow due to her husband Jay's suicide on Valentine's Day. One might think this is going to be a blubbering tearjerker, but it isn't. Instead the author infused light humor with the often tedious (but necessary) details of the grieving process. What's great about "Happy Now?" is it isn't a novel that 'feels sorry for itself' and neither does the main character Claire. Yes, she goes through the phases you would expect any widow to go through: the questions of why and the timing of the suicide, her husband's final thoughts, the validity of their marriage, etc. Suddenly single again and childless, Claire has to put on a happy face to morally support her pregnant sister and brother in law. What's impressive here is Shonk's ability to never allow Claire to lose that 'human touch' that keeps her connected to the reader -- even when Claire is berating the members of a support group or confronting Jay's therapist about the details of his sessions. One of the best elements of the book was how the story unfolds. The reader is thrust back into the tangled marriage of Claire and Jay: from a simple conversation during a date gone awry to Jay's laying in bed for days during the honeymoon because of depression. Jay even leaves his suicide note in a sectioned binder and unbeknownst to Claire, gives away a painting she did for him. All of those little details helps the reader understand Jay, if only a little bit better, while simultaneously allowing the lead character to reflect on her relationship with him as well. For some readers that have never suffered from CHRONIC depression it's going to be difficult to fully empathize with Jay. The same likely can be applied to real life circumstances too; making sense of depression is like a ball of confusion if it hasn't been your personal experience. Common reactions can range from: "Why doesn't he just get himself together!?" or "She should've left him for acting so irrational." But for someone that can relate to Jay's struggles all too well, his description of what it's like to be in the web of depression will resonant: "I get tired of pushing the stone up the hill...the thought that I'll have to take a shower every day for the rest of my life." Two issues I did have while reading was I couldn't help but long for Jay's character to be rounded out more. A few more 'action' scenes or flashbacks revealing more about him & his relationship with Claire wouldn't have hurt. Also, the final ending leaves a bit to be desired & seems it was aimed to convey some kind of message possibly about the characters and their futures? But whatever it was, was lost on this reader unfortunately. Overall "Happy Now?" was an easy, witty and entertaining read about a subject matter that can be difficult to broach in fictional writing. less
Reviews (see all)
A very moving book by a writer who's completely new to me. Will look for more.
Tis book was okay - I think I would have preferred a first person narrator.
Good plot, but dull style and uneventful ending.
one of the best books i have ever read.
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