...utterly gorgeous ... The story is told in riveting, plot-twisting fashion, and I’m loath to reveal a lot of plot points. But I’ll say that it’s also told with care and courage and humor, and it will deepen your understanding of not just life with a sick child, but life.
In sharp and vivid prose, Harpham tunnels through the harrowing months ahead filled with hospitals, needles, and ICUs. While the book could have benefitted from some pruning, what keeps the reader reading is the writing. Apart from the long, twee title, Harpham's language is crisp, tersely evocative, and most bracingly for a book whose currency is pain, funny ... A heartfelt exploration of mortality and life, this memoir also explores the complex pulls and pushes of human relationships, and the deep debt we owe to family, friends, and modern medicine. At heart, it is a sobering mediation on the lasting impermanence of its titular emotion, happiness.
Harpham's writing is tender and frank; Gracie's character comes alive on the page — she's a spunky, funny child who accepts her illness stoically. She smells of 'French-milled soap and sourdough bread, almost too good to bear.' Harpham also writes honestly of her relationship with Brian — the cracks and fissures between them began with his initial rejection of their baby, but the problems continue because of her own prickliness. Happiness is a fast read, a compelling story about life and death, illness and health, and, above all, family.
It wants to be an exploration of happiness — a fascinating subject, and Harpham is a heroine for our times. She was, after all, no fairy tale princess...That she was as invested as she was in the conventional tropes of marriage and family might shine a light on our society, on how heavily we’ve been influenced by Walt Disney, Nora Ephron, and Jane Austen alike. In spite of her optimism, when Heather finally gets what she wants — a husband and children — she becomes disenchanted. That’s something to look at — however, a real examination would require confrontation … As honest as she is with us, we might wish Harpham were more rigorous with both her former and current selves. She’s a fine writer, and her story is captivating, but she has occasionally missed out on opportunities for reflection and self-interrogation.
...a book, most of all, about the value of that most commonplace and staggering of miracles … Most memoirs aren’t written because of a surfeit of mental health. Harpham’s would be an interesting and invigorating psyche to inhabit even in the best of times. But it is a particularly soothing place from which to contemplate our current political predicament. The sense of betrayal, of vulnerability, the guilt and pity and worry for those who will continue to be hardest hit, the most vulnerable members of our community—all of this makes Harpham’s memoir feel not just moving but necessary.
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.
...she describes with warmth, fearless honesty, and humor the harrowing saga of what happened after she gave birth ... Harpham has written a heartfelt exploration of familial bonds and the sometimes incredibly bumpy journey one must take to get to contentment.