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Happiness: A Novel
Happiness: A Novel

“Throughout Happiness, Forna stops in our tracks . . . Reminiscent at times of Michael Ondaatje’s novel Anil’s Ghost . . . Happiness is a meditation on grand themes: Love and death, man and nature, cruelty and mercy. But Forna folds this weighty matter into her buoyant creation with a sublimely delicate touch.”

Washington Post

London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide―Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech.

From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna’s unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments of connection.

Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his “niece” who hasn’t called home in a while. Ama has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.

When, by chance, Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the network of rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens―mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London―come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds.

Meanwhile a consulting case causes Attila to question the impact of his own ideas on trauma, the values of the society he finds himself in, and a grief of his own. In this delicate tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, Forna asks us to consider the interconnectedness of lives, our co-existence with one another and all living creatures, and the true nature of happiness.

The Bottomline:

Happiness: A Novel is about so much more than happiness. It is about human connections, animal connections, survival, change and embracing it, fear, etc.. It is a wonderful read anytime of the year.

There is also great sadness in this book and although the title is Happiness, it is about a quality greater than happiness. It is more about the triumph of the human spirit.

When you read this book it will give you so much to think about. You will feel like you want to know the characters in real life.

You will definitely want to read more by the author.

“ Happiness is both a love story and an exploration of the potential for trauma to cause not just damage, but resilience.”


Happiness: A Novel is a great pick for book clubs.

About the Author:

Aminatta Forna writes with intelligence and compassion about people in pain. She digs deep but also leaves gaps to be filled in at the proper time.

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Last updated on July 8, 2019 6:39 pm

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