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Secrets of Happiness
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Catapult 2021
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A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
 
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 in this "expansive and elegantly crafted novel" (Fresh Air, NPR).
 
"Rich with the complexities of life . . . 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 . . . Pull any life’s thread and you discover a mesh of involvement that soon takes in all the others. It is a fine thing, subtly done, and truly exhilarating." —The Wall Street Journal


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.
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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
05/04/2021
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781640094468
ASIN:
B08FH9CW7X
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Citations
APA Citation (style guide)

Joan Silber. (2021). Secrets of Happiness. Catapult.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Joan Silber. 2021. Secrets of Happiness. Catapult.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Joan Silber, Secrets of Happiness. Catapult, 2021.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Joan Silber. Secrets of Happiness. Catapult, 2021. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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Date Added:
Apr 30, 2021 17:05:41
Date Updated:
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      • fileAs: Silber, Joan
      • bioText: 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. Her previous book, Fools, was long-listed for the National Book Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Other works include The Size of the World, finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction, and Ideas of Heaven, finalist for the National Book Award and The Story Prize. She lives in New York, has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, and teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA program.
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shortDescription
A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
 
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 in this "expansive and elegantly crafted novel" (Fresh Air, NPR).
 
"Rich with the complexities of life . . . 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 . . . Pull any life’s thread and you discover a mesh of involvement that soon takes in all the others. It is a fine thing, subtly done, and truly exhilarating." —The Wall Street Journal


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...
isOwnedByCollections
True
title
Secrets of Happiness
fullDescription
A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
 
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 in this "expansive and elegantly crafted novel" (Fresh Air, NPR).
 
"Rich with the complexities of life . . . 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 . . . Pull any life’s thread and you discover a mesh of involvement that soon takes in all the others. It is a fine thing, subtly done, and truly exhilarating." —The Wall Street Journal


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.
sortTitle
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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: The New York Times Book Review
      • content: "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."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Washington Post
      • content: "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."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        December 14, 2020
        A crushing indiscretion comes to light in the sharp latest from National Book Critics Circle Award winner Silber (Improvement). The story is initially narrated by Ethan, a gay Manhattan attorney who discovers his businessman father, Gil, has led a secret double life after Gil is hit with a paternity suit by a Thai woman named Nok. Gil suffers several strokes and decides to recover with his Thai family, and awkward visitations ensue at Nok’s apartment, where Gil calls Nok Abby, Ethan’s mother’s name. The situation’s emotional complexity unfolds and expands through accounts from a diverse range of interconnected narrators, juggled by Silber with uncanny dexterity. In addition to witty and genially confident Ethan, there’s Abby, who now teaches English in Thailand; Ethan’s half brother, Joe, who feels uneasy about the return from Bangkok of his younger brother Jack, whom Joe had recently freed from jail by bribing the police; various characters’ ex-lovers and their exes; a Nepalese film director; and others. These perspectives become an extended family of sorts conjoined by love yet tormented by the past. As more layers peel away across continents, the fallout of Gil’s affair trickles down through Silber’s intricate and emotionally elaborate study of emotional ties. This mesmerizing story of love, lies, and the consequences of betrayal brims with heart and intelligence.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        January 1, 2021

        Young New York lawyer Ethan's life was upended when he learned that his father has always had a secret second family. His mother's response has been to spend a year working abroad, while Ethan gets involved with his half-brothers even as he's caught up in a love triangle of his own. Following the National Book Critics Circle Award Improvement.

        Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        January 15, 2021
        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 aper�us 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.

        COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        April 15, 2021
        Ethan first meets his father's other family after his father, Gil, suffers a stroke. Of course, he had met them before without realizing it, when Gil took the family to the Thai restaurant where his other wife was the hostess who always gave them a good table. Gil brought Nok from Thailand to Queens, eventually having two sons with her. Ethan, a gay lawyer, witnesses how his father's secret shatters his family's sense of security. The ramifications from the revelation spread out to five different characters who share their stories. Some narrators are close to the center of Gil's tale, like his half-Thai son Joe, who travels to Bangkok to bail his brother out of jail; some are farther afield from Gil, like the filmmaker whose mother calls Gil, an old flame, asking for a loan. What the six intertwining stories lack in distinctive voices they make up for in frankness and complexity, as each character reckons with the insidious influence of money on his or her lives and struggles to find success, fulfillment, and love.

        COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

popularity
1988
publisher
Catapult
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