[A] deliciously brainy new thriller ... The mystery deepens ... In another writer’s hands this complicated plot might have flown apart, but Mia is an appealing guide through thickets of cognition. She’s cheeky, indefatigable and sensitive to how a bifurcated identity molds her. As she pieces together what happened on that park trail, the scaffolding of a thriller falls away, revealing happiness and sorrow, futility and hope, as more than a dance of neurons ... A page-turner.
One of the smartest, most multi-layered mysteries of the year. While moving at the speed of a thriller, it’s also an engrossing story that explores what it means to be part of a family with a special-needs child, and discusses the implications of being biracial and navigating two different cultures without ever feeling completely at home in either ... Mia has a unique voice that makes even the most scientific and philosophical passages feel like a conversation with a friend ... A gripping mystery about a missing father. However, right below that is a nuanced story about a family who’s forced to navigate incredibly tough circumstances. The only way for them to make it through is to learn, and accept, as much as they can about each other. Deftly crafted and truly riveting, this novel about heartache and hope, the author’s second, proves Kim is a powerful voice that’s here to stay.
Discursive ... The mystery turns out to be little more than a vehicle for exploring a dense thicket of ideas that seem to interest Kim more than the fate of a missing middle-aged father: the relativity of happiness; the way we make sense of events based on scant evidence ... [A] tornado of a book ... It’s an engaging read, but whip-smart Mia is an overbearing and prolix narrator. So relentlessly does she analyze every tidbit of material that the book can feel a little airless ... I did turn back to the beginning of Happiness Falls after reading the last page, but out of professional obligation, not a burning desire to revisit details I might have misinterpreted. With obsessive Mia as narrator, I hadn’t had an opportunity to interpret — let alone misinterpret — anything at all.
Though there is no smooth resolution, it all circles back to Eugene in surprising ways. Kim explores themes of language and communication, with Mia reflecting on her time growing up in Korea and her family’s methods for communicating with Eugene. Mia is a prickly, appealing narrator, going off on frequent tangents that add texture to the narrative. The result is a philosophical family drama that is as page-turning as it is thought-provoking. Book groups will find much to discuss here, especially those who like Celeste Ng.
Mia is an amazing creation, as is Eugene. But what is most remarkable about this book is the way Mia's father’s 'happiness quotient' theory ripples not just through the plot of the novel, but through the life of the reader. The claim that a book will change your life often seems like exaggeration. Here the potential is real.
Bittersweet ... Intimate ... Readers will be fascinated with how Kim bends the structure of a whodunit to serve a broader exploration of the dynamics of human relations and moved by her skill at wresting joy from tragedy.