Summary and book reviews of Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

Secrets of Happiness

by Joan Silber

Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber X
Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    May 2021, 288 pages

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Book Summary

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.

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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Reviews

Media Reviews

Literary Hub, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year
A new Joan Silber book is always a reason to celebrate. Her latest is the story of a family—two families—exploding after a years-long infidelity comes to light, told in intersecting, polyphonic voices, like a tapestry of those affected.

The Millions, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year
This complex, intergenerational novel spans three continents as it reveals the connection between the two families, no longer secret to each other.

Publishers Weekly
This mesmerizing story of love, lies, and the consequences of betrayal brims with heart and intelligence.

Library Journal
Silber moves easily in and out of her characters' heads; the novel is deceptively airy, yet, given a reflective reading, it has an ethical center without the shortcut of easy morality. Silber's fans, and readers who enjoy smart, humane contemporary fiction that doesn't talk down to them, will enjoy this work.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
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...These secrets of happiness really will make you happy, at least for a few sweet hours.

BookPage (starred review)
The complex seesaw of love and finances, both offered and withheld, is explored throughout seven chapters and across four continents. Silber's device—a secondary character from one chapter commanding the narrative in the next—is as effortless as a dragonfly skimming over a pond...Secrets of Happiness also explores the great generosity of love that exists in families, whether we're born into them or choose them. Rarely is a novel of moral ideas so buoyant in spirit or so exquisitely crafted.

Buzzfeed, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year
Joan Silber is a masterful writer of multifaceted characters in complex relationship dynamics...Her new novel follows a man harboring a secret—he's leading two lives, part of two families—and the impact of his deception radiates far beyond him.

Author Blurb Ann Patchett
Secrets of Happiness unfolds across families and lovers, across time and expectations, across the country and across the world, and the bigger it gets, the more it shows how deeply connected we are. Joan Silber writes with a frankness and freshness that draws the reader closer with every page. It would be impossible to overstate just how good this book is.

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