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The Sad Truth about Happinessby Anne Giardini
Synopses & Reviews
A beautiful and affecting novel — bittersweet and comic — on the elusive nature of happiness.
Maggie is in her early thirties, gainfully employed, between relationships, and ready for change — although not in the ways or to the degree that unfolds in Anne Giardini's The Sad Truth About Happiness.
Maggie's roommate, Rebecca, devises questionnaires for women's magazines, and she is convinced her newest quiz can predict the exact date of death of anyone who answers the questions honestly. When Maggie tries the test, she learns that she is scheduled to die before her next birthday — the fact that she has answered "No" to the question "Are you happy?" appears to have shaved decades off her life. Only if Maggie can become happy in her three remaining months can she perhaps prevent the prediction from coming true.
With wry comedy, Maggie's life becomes considerably more complicated from that very moment, since her quest for happiness attracts both admirers and challenges. The true test comes when, through a mad tangle of circumstance, Maggie finds herself on the run with her sister Lucy's newborn son. The often unexpected power of friendships and family, the universal pull toward a home, and a more intense relationship with the world all leave Maggie and the reader with a new awareness of the evanescent joys of happiness, which we all long for, but can seldom seek directly or hold for longer than an instant.
"This charming though overwritten debut from novelist Carol Shields's eldest daughter hinges on the sympathetic protagonist's realization that she is 'not completely' happy, an insight that surprises her when a magazine quiz devised to predict longevity calculates that she has but three months to live. Thirty-something Maggie Selgrin, an unmarried radiation technologist in a Vancouver hospital, has always been the even-tempered middle daughter in a remarkably wholesome family. Despite her professional stability, solid friendships and close family, the quiz triggers her admission of discontent. Not only does she ache for romance (she links joy with the idea of a relationship), but she realizes she has always subsumed her needs to those of her more temperamental sisters. Maggie flounders and fumbles to regain her emotional footing before no less than three men enliven her static existence and she becomes embroiled in the kidnapping of her sister Lucy's baby. Giardini's meditative, hyper-descriptive prose can bog down the plot, but readers will surely relate to her likable heroine. And if the story offers no novel lessons about life, love or the pursuit of happiness ('Happiness evades capture, dissolving like a melody into the air, eluding even the most delicate, careful grasp'), it does provide a pleasantly entertaining journey. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Richly reflective, this debut novel by the daughter of Carol Shields explores Maggie's world as she seeks the solution to that unanswerable question of what or how happiness is defined and achieved in one's lifetime." Booklist
"For all the plot events, the story feels scattershot. A more serious problem is that, for all the musing about happiness and loss, the characters' emotions never rise above the tepid. Neither will readers'." Kirkus Reviews
"This first novel may remind us of works by the author's mother, Carol Shields, in its sensitive handling of rich characters and domestic detail. A touching and satisfying read..." Library Journal
"A fully formed new voice, poignant, funny and acute." Fay Weldon, author of Wicked Women
The daughter of beloved novelist Carol Shields (The Stone Diaries) delivers her first novel — a bittersweet and comic story on the unexpected power of friendships and family, and the rewards of a more intense relationship with the world.
About the Author
Anne Giardini is a lawyer and mother of three. She has written and published essays, stories, and articles on many topics and was for three years a columnist for the National Post, one of Canada's national newspapers.
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