BookBrowse Reviews Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain

Stories

by Lucia Perillo

Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2012, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2013, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Beverly Melven

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A collection of short stories set in coastal Washington State

Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo is a collection of stories - some just a few pages long - that packs a powerful, emotional punch. Small-town Northwesterners populate these stories, which all take place in an unnamed coastal town in Washington State. The characters have few prospects and are just trying to get from one day to the next while figuring it all out - life, love, why we do what we do.

Except for three stories that feature the same characters, the pieces in the collection are not really connected to each other. In that sense, this isn't quite a "novel in stories." But the setting and weighty themes work as unifying threads.

In 14 stories and a little more than 200 pages, Perillo covers a lot of ground. We meet a chronically ill woman who is sure her husband is cheating on her; a retired doctor in a retirement community plagued with suicides; a mother whose adult child wants to know who her father is; and a young woman who, having moved back in with her mom, wants more from life. Perillo leaves no modern social ill – drug addiction, divorce, mindless sex, absent fathers, pedophilia – unexplored. But nowhere do we find judgment; only exposition of the emotional trauma that both underlies and results from lives lived in less than perfect circumstances.

I think "Big-Dot Day," the story of Arnie, a young boy whose life has been a series of unfulfilled promises, is my favorite. Arnie and his mother are moving to Washington because her new boyfriend thinks he can get a job fishing (the story's title is a reference to low-tide markings in tide tables). We watch Arnie try to tread the line between loving and believing his mother, while preparing for crushing disappointment once again. In 15 pages, Perillo paints a clear picture of human failure on one side and hope on the other. The story is concise, potent and heart-wrenching.

Lucia Perillo has previously published over half a dozen books of poetry; no surprise, considering this book is full of stories short on words and long on nuance. She seems to come to no conclusions on what the human condition is, or what it means. At the same time, she presents all kinds of evidence that every one of us is inept and needy, yet wonderful in spite of ourselves. This is a book to make us feel better about our shortcomings - even in the deepest despair there is hope.

Reviewed by Beverly Melven

This review was originally published in July 2012, and has been updated for the May 2013 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Amber Shadows
    The Amber Shadows
    by Lucy Ribchester
    The Amber Shadows sweeps readers into the realm of World War II-era Britain where Honor "Honey" ...
  • Book Jacket: Midwinter Break
    Midwinter Break
    by Bernard MacLaverty
    Northern Ireland's Bernard MacLaverty is the author of five novels and multiple short story ...
  • Book Jacket: The Ninth Hour
    The Ninth Hour
    by Alice McDermott
    In a pivotal scene in The Ninth Hour, young Sally encounters an increasingly loathsome series of ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford

    Inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Twelve-Mile Straight
    by Eleanor Henderson

    An audacious epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don't Rise

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y Can't M A S P O O A S E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.