Secrets of happiness book review

Secrets of happiness book review DEFAULT

Secrets of Happiness

When a man discovers his father in New York has long had another, secret, family—a wife and two kids—the interlocking fates of both families lead to surprise loyalties, love triangles, and a reservoir of inner strength.

Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family—a Thai wife and two kids living in Queens. In the aftermath of this When a man discovers his father in New York has long had another, secret, family—a wife and two kids—the interlocking fates of both families lead to surprise loyalties, love triangles, and a reservoir of inner strength.

Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family—a Thai wife and two kids living in Queens. In the aftermath of this revelation, Ethan's mother spends a year working abroad, returning much changed, and events introduce her to the other wife. Across town, Ethan's half brothers are caught in their own complicated journeys: one brother's penchant for minor delinquency has escalated, and the other must travel to Bangkok to bail him out, while the bargains their mother has struck about love and money continue to shape their lives.

As Ethan finds himself caught in a love triangle of his own, the interwoven fates of these two households elegantly unfurl to encompass a woman rallying to help an ill brother with an unreliable lover and a filmmaker with a girlhood spent in Nepal. Evoking a generous and humane spirit, and a story that ranges over three continents, Secrets of Happiness elucidates the ways people marshal the resources at hand to forge their own forms of joy....more

Hardcover, 288 pages

Published May 4th 2021 by Counterpoint

Sours: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/54338144

About Joan Silber

Joan Silber is the author of nine books of fiction. Her last book, Improvement, was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award and was listed as one of the year's best books by The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, The Seattle Times, and Kirkus Reviews. She lives in New York and teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program. Find out more at joansilber.net

Praise

An O, The Oprah Magazine Most Anticipated Book of Next Year

"[An] intricate and emotionally elaborate study of emotional ties. This mesmerizing story of love, lies, and the consequences of betrayal brims with heart and intelligence." —Publishers Weekly

Praise for Improvement:


"This is a novel of richness and wisdom and huge pleasure. Silber knows, and reveals, how close we live to the abyss, but she also revels in joy, particularly the joy that comes from intimate relationships . . . [A] perfectly balanced mix of celebration and wryness." —The New York Times Book Review
 
"Joan Silber's quietly brilliant novel Improvement weaves an intricate, zigzagging pattern out of the lives of a dozen people, and six well-chosen narrators provide the voices . . . The multiplicity of voices in this production gives a wonderful aural dimension to the weave of inadvertently interlocked lives." —The Washington Post
Sours: https://www.counterpointpress.com/dd-product/secrets-of-happiness/
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‘Secrets of Happiness’ Review: The Will to Be Canny

‘Money made everybody want to be so smart,” observes a character in Joan Silber’s 2017 novel “Improvement.” The thought belongs to a man whose lawyer suggests he might think about adding bodily injury to his insurance claim after a reckless driver damages his truck. The observation could be a leitmotif for much of Ms. Silber’s work. Her most interesting characters are alert to the main chance, nursing various degrees of larceny in their hearts; while the more sympathetic—if less interesting—ones have grasped the paltriness of a life dedicated to getting and spending. In the seven artfully linked stories of Ms. Silber’s new novel, “Secrets of Happiness,” we find both types, but once again those who display the will to be canny, which money in the offing or in the pocket seems to confer, are the most deeply penetrated and superbly conjured.

The stories are told in the first person and begin with Ethan, a thirtyish New York lawyer. He gives us a quick rundown of his life so far as a gay man, his early crushes, his later relationships and his coming out to his parents, Abby and Gil, the latter of whom says “I have to revise everything I know.” He’s not the only one. Despite romantic ups and downs, Ethan’s life has been quiet enough until his sister, Allyson, phones him to say that their mother has come home from work to find a legal notice naming Gil in a paternity suit. In fact, Gil, whose successful business has required him to spend a great deal of time away, has a whole second family in Queens, consisting of Nok, a Thai woman, and two teenage sons.

Sours: https://www.wsj.com/articles/secrets-of-happiness-review-the-will-to-be-canny-11619788353
The surprising science of happiness - Dan Gilbert

SECRETS OF HAPPINESS

A new novel in stories from the master of the form.

Silber has her own sly and satisfying system for linked stories, plucking a character from one to helm the next, moving the narrative forward, or sideways, from that person's point of view. Her latest uses this form to explore all the ways money doesn't buy happiness and some of the things that actually do. The seven stories begin with and return to a character named Ethan, whose father—who travels a lot for his work in the garment industry—has a secret: a second family in Queens. So begins a journey based in New York, landing lightly in Chiang Mai ("so fun-loving it celebrated three different new year's"), Bangkok, Dhaka, Kathmandu, and Phnom Penh before returning to Manhattan. Along the way, the word money is used 107 times, yet Silber's storytelling is so artful, so filled with humor and aperçus and diverting asides, that its moral lessons emerge quite gently. Each character adds something to the store of "secrets." Ethan and his sister, for example, are interpreting letters from their mother, who's spending a year in Thailand and sounds pretty happy for a woman betrayed. Is she in love? No, it's not the "smug triumph" of the newly coupled: "She was happy from other things—the fabric she found at the night market, the celebration at the temple on the mountain, and the trek in the forest she and her friends did one weekend, where they saw caves and waterfalls." Bud is a taxi driver who both suffers and commits a robbery, then refuses an inheritance: "Of course, I felt rich for turning it down. You could list all the things you didn't need and feel wonderful for abandoning them." Later, he comments, "Sanity is much sexier than people tend to think." That last line echoes the great Grace Paley, to whom Silber is so close in spirit and voice. While Paley was an all–New York gal, Silber makes faraway places seem familiar—oh, for the time when we can work on knowing the world even one-tenth as well as she does.

These secrets of happiness really will make you happy, at least for a few sweet hours.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64009-445-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Sours: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/joan-silber/secrets-of-happiness/

Book review secrets of happiness

Secrets of Happiness

The challenges of balancing money and personal happiness wend their way through National Book Critics Circle Award winner Joan Silber’s Secrets of Happiness, which begins with a startling act of duplicity and ends with acceptance and reconciliation despite the characters’ changed circumstances.  

The novel opens as Ethan, a gay lawyer in Manhattan, relates how his family was blown apart when his father, Gil, was named in a paternity suit by Nok, a woman he brought to New York from Thailand and with whom he had two sons. Gil’s wife, Abby, divorced him and journeyed to Bangkok to teach English, seeking serenity in the unfamiliar surroundings of Thailand, and Gil moved in with Nok after he had a debilitating stroke.

Rarely is a novel of moral ideas so buoyant in spirit or so exquisitely crafted.

Meanwhile, Ethan’s new half brother, Joe, also travels to Thailand, hoping to bribe police to release his wastrel brother from prison. After Joe’s return to New York, he falls back into an awkward relationship with a high school girlfriend who was abruptly widowed and then swindled out of inheriting her husband’s estate by his greedy family.

The complex seesaw of love and finances, both offered and withheld, is explored throughout seven chapters and across four continents. Silber’s device—a secondary character from one chapter commanding the narrative in the next—is as effortless as a dragonfly skimming over a pond. The multiple perspectives bring an unexpected cohesion to the novel’s diverse cast, which includes Ethan’s boyfriend, who lives with his terminally ill former partner, and Gil’s old girlfriend, a free spirit who raises two daughters in Kathmandu, Nepal.

As more connections reveal themselves, the slim threads that bind these characters take on emotional weight, exposing the ways Gil’s infidelity has trickled out into the world. But Secrets of Happiness also explores the great generosity of love that exists in families, whether we’re born into them or choose them. Rarely is a novel of moral ideas so buoyant in spirit or so exquisitely crafted.

Sours: https://www.bookpage.com/reviews/26173-joan-silber-secrets-happiness-fiction/
The secret to happiness

Summary and book reviews of Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

Book Summary

When a man discovers his father in New York has long had another, secret, family - a wife and two kids - the interlocking fates of both families lead to surprise loyalties, love triangles, and a reservoir of inner strength.

Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family—a Thai wife and two kids living in Queens. In the aftermath of this revelation, Ethan's mother spends a year working abroad, returning much changed, as events introduce her to the other wife. Across town, Ethan's half brothers are caught in their own complicated journeys: one brother's penchant for minor delinquency has escalated, and the other must travel to Bangkok to bail him out, while the bargains their mother has struck about love and money continue to shape their lives.

As Ethan finds himself caught in a love triangle of his own, the interwoven fates of these two households elegantly unfurl to encompass a woman rallying to help an ill brother with an unreliable lover and a filmmaker with a girlhood spent in Nepal. Evoking a generous and humane spirit, and a story that ranges over three continents, Secrets of Happiness elucidates the ways people marshal the resources at hand to forge their own forms of joy.



Sadly, the publisher is unable to provide an excerpt of this book.



Sours: https://www.bookbrowse.com/reviews/index.cfm/book_number/4285/secrets-of-happiness

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Secrets of Happiness looks like a series of linked stories, but it’s more like a roulette wheel in print: Each chapter spins to some other character in a large circle of possibilities. It takes only a moment to get your bearings, and the disappointment of leaving one narrator behind is instantly replaced by the delight of meeting a new one ... These stories unfurl with such verbal verisimilitude that they’re like late-night phone calls from old friends. Every imperative page trips along with the wry wisdom of ordinary speech — the illusion of artlessness that only the most artful writers can create ... One senses throughout this novel that Silber knows something crucial about the secrets of happiness.
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Her most interesting characters are alert to the main chance, nursing various degrees of larceny in their hearts; while the more sympathetic—if less interesting—ones have grasped the paltriness of a life dedicated to getting and spending. In the seven artfully linked stories of Ms. Silber’s new novel...we find both types, but once again those who display the will to be canny, which money in the offing or in the pocket seems to confer, are the most deeply penetrated and superbly conjured ... Each of the seven sections engages our interest right off the bat; each has a first sentence pregnant with promise ... Having seized our attention, Ms. Silber pushes forward into her characters’ stories, summing up in fleet, fluid prose the circumstances and acts that have shaped their lives to this point, then slipping deftly into further events where, for better or worse, the gravitational force of money can be felt ... Despite their unity of theme, Ms. Silber’s stories are the furthest thing from didactic ... they are rich with the complexities of life; the characters’ motives and their decisions arise out of personalities meeting circumstance. Further, the stories create a world made fully dimensional through changes of perspective—major characters appear and reappear as part of one or another’s experience and testimony ... It is a fine thing, subtly done, and truly exhilarating.
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This is a signature style — the Silber structure. Call it the relay narrative: In book after book, Silber gets things up and running with one character, telling his or her story to its fullest, before leaping into a wholly different life and telling all about it. These narratives are often richly rewarding on their own, but more sublime is what can fall out between any two accounts: some devastating misunderstanding or easily missed opportunity that, heartbreaking as it might be for the characters, rewards the reader with a rare, delectable irony ... Silber illuminates those invisible fissures and inexplicable distances that we sense, however dimly, make up our shared lives with others as much as our formal connections and open battles ... Roundedness is what Silber is after, the insight that comes with a change in perspective, a god’s point of view. I never wonder more at how little we know about how greatly we factor in other people’s lives than I do when reading Silber at her best. She aims, in increments, at the ecstatic ... shows what happens when the Silber structure is spread too thin, its linked characters imperfectly calibrated. There is enough revelation, and resolution, to fill an entire novel in Ethan’s chapter as his father’s double life comes to light; but Joe’s narrative fails to engage with Ethan’s, to qualify or repudiate it. We never learn what Joe knows of Ethan, or what he thinks of him and the father they share, or what differences in background and upbringing the two had and how Joe feels about that. Embittering distances are never measured, destroying depths rarely plumbed ... The narrative strands attenuate and lose sight of a satisfying whole ... rouses but never roars ... What are the secrets of happiness? Money? Renunciation? Duty and loyalty and love? Lacking a strong point of view, Silber offers up each possibility in its turn, but they, too, fade away ... Capable of ecstasy, this time Silber delivers merely something humane, elegant and wise.
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