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Happiness, A Memoir
Cover of Happiness, A Memoir
Happiness, A Memoir
The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
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Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine's April 2018 book pick

A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

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.

Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine's April 2018 book pick

A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.

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.

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About the Author-
  • Heather Harpham has written several solo plays, including Happiness and BURNING which toured nationally. Her fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in MORE Magazine and Water~Stone Review.

    Harpham is the recipient of the Brenda Ueland Prose Prize, a Marin Arts Council Independent Artist Grant and a grant from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and SUNY Purchase and lives along the Hudson River with her family.

    Happiness: A Memoir was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club x Hello Sunshine Book Pick.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    July 3, 2017
    In her early 30s, Harpham, a writer and playwright, found herself unexpectedly pregnant by her boyfriend, Brian, a novelist and professor who was adamant about not wanting children. As Harpham relates in this moving memoir, she relocated from New York City to Marin County, Calif., to be closer to her family while trying to figure out ahead of her due date if she, her boyfriend, and the baby could be a family. Her story unfolds in the early 2000s and she describes with warmth, fearless honesty, and humor the harrowing saga of what happened after she gave birth. Her newborn, Gracie, had a blood disorder that required her to get transfusions every few weeks because her bone marrow couldn’t make red blood cells; doctors told Harpham that without a marrow transplant, her daughter wouldn’t live past age 30. While the frustration and fear surrounding Gracie’s condition mounted, Brian slowly but steadily became more involved and kept visiting them in California. As Harpham wrestled with whether she still wanted him in her life, she found the patience to let him realize on his own that his feelings about fatherhood had changed. They resolved the questions in their relationship and then had to make the decision that had haunted them for more than a year: whether to risk Gracie’s life by putting her through a transplant operation that didn’t have guaranteed results. Harpham has written a heartfelt exploration of familial bonds and the sometimes incredibly bumpy journey one must take to get to contentment.

  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2017
    Parenting a sick child takes a couple to the edge and back.No one wants to hear that their child has a life-threatening illness which, if left unattended, could considerably shorten the child's life. But if faced with such horrible news, one hopes to have the support and love of the other parent to help make decisions and get through the rough spots. In playwright Harpham's emotion-packed memoir about her sick daughter, Gracie, she examines the conflicted feelings she had toward Brian, Gracie's father, as the two navigated the complex world of a seriously ill child. Since Brian was not there for her during the pregnancy, the author wasn't able to trust that he would continue to be there through the numerous blood transfusions that Gracie required. Readers see her open her heart and world to Brian only to clamp down when she gets nervous or scared, reacting perhaps to the semichaotic echoes of her own childhood that still tug on her emotionally. The author does justice to Brian's love and affections, painting a well-rounded picture of a man who wants the best for his family as well as time and space for himself and his work as a writer. Throughout, Harpham provides detailed information about Gracie's condition, which builds tension and anxiety as readers wonder if this little girl will ever get the medical treatment she needs to beat her disease. The author also discusses the other parents she befriended in the hospital, many of whose children also had serious illnesses. Although a personal story, Harpham's memoir provides a larger, universal picture of unconditional love toward a child and the push-pull of an adult relationship and all its inherent highs and lows. A frank and often affecting memoir from a mother determined to do whatever it takes for her child.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    April 1, 2017

    An award-winning writer, performer, and teacher of physical theater/improvisation, Harpham tells a heartrending story of discovering hours after giving birth that something was dangerously wrong with her baby.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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    Henry Holt and Co.
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Happiness, A Memoir
Happiness, A Memoir
The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After
Heather Harpham
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