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Reviews of Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

Happiness Falls

A Novel

by Angie Kim

Happiness Falls by Angie Kim X
Happiness Falls by Angie Kim
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2023, 400 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2024, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Ahima
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About this Book

Book Summary

When a father goes missing, his family's desperate search leads them to question everything they know about him and one another in this thrilling page-turner, a deeply moving portrait of a family in crisis from the award-winning author of Miracle Creek.

"We didn't call the police right away." Those are the electric first words of this extraordinary novel about a biracial Korean American family in Virginia whose lives are upended when their beloved father and husband goes missing.

Mia, the irreverent, hyperanalytical twenty-year-old daughter, has an explanation for everything—which is why she isn't initially concerned when her father and younger brother Eugene don't return from a walk in a nearby park. They must have lost their phone. Or stopped for an errand somewhere. But by the time Mia's brother runs through the front door bloody and alone, it becomes clear that the father in this tight-knit family is missing and the only witness is Eugene, who has the rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and cannot speak.

What follows is both a ticking-clock investigation into the whereabouts of a father and an emotionally rich portrait of a family whose most personal secrets just may be at the heart of his disappearance. Full of shocking twists and fascinating questions of love, language, and human connection, Happiness Falls is a mystery, a family drama, and a novel of profound philosophical inquiry. With all the powerful storytelling she brought to her award-winning debut, Miracle Creek, Angie Kim turns the missing-person story into something wholly original, creating an indelible tale of a family who must go to remarkable lengths to truly understand one another.

One

Locke, Bach, and K-­pop

We didn't call the police right away. Later, I would blame myself, wonder if things might have turned out differently if I hadn't shrugged it off, insisting Dad wasn't missing missing but just delayed, probably still in the woods looking for Eugene, thinking he'd run off somewhere. Mom says it wasn't my fault, that I was merely being optimistic, but I know better. I don't believe in optimism. I believe there's a fine line (if any) between optimism and willful idiocy, so I try to avoid optimism altogether, lest I fall over the line mistakenly.

My twin brother, John, keeps trying to make me feel better, too, saying we couldn't have known something was wrong because it was such a typical morning, which is an asinine thing to say because why would you assume things can't go wrong simply because they haven't yet? Life isn't geometry; terrible, life-­changing moments don't happen predictably, at the bottom of a linear slope. Tragedies and accidents are ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!
  1. What were your first impressions of each member of the Parkson family? How did your perceptions evolve over the course of the novel?
  2. How would you describe Mia's voice as a narrator? Is she "reliable"? How would the book be different if Angie Kim had written it in the third person?
  3. How did the structure of the book, including footnotes and charts, influence your reading experience?
  4. Discuss the relationships between the Parkson siblings—and among the threeof them. What do they learn about one another? How do you envision their relationships evolving after the events of the book?
  5. Do you think it can be more difficult to see the people closest to us as they really are? Why or why not?
  6. As Kim explores in Happiness Falls, we tend...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Within all of Kim's wonderful writing, I was still left so curious about Eugene's personhood outside the context of his disability and familial relationships. Most of the characterization we get of Eugene is tied to his lack of speech, but he feels like such a core part of the novel that I wanted more of him. That said, Happiness Falls is not only a great suspense novel where every page pulls you toward the edge of a horrific cliffhanger, it is also a novel that confronts you. It alerts you to the possibility of biases you might harbor in your own life...continued

Full Review Members Only (542 words)

(Reviewed by Lisa Ahima).

Media Reviews

Elle
A riveting, suspenseful read that doubles as a nuanced family tale.

People (Book of the Week)
This riveting missing-person thriller is really a meditation on happiness that illuminates the power of language and challenges readers' stereotypes.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Angie Kim's powerhouse of a novel offers a probing exploration of the intersection of communication, speech and intelligence that not only gives voice to a silenced population but concludes with a fantastic twist.

The Boston Globe
One of the smartest, most multi-layered mysteries of the year ... 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.

The Washington Post
[A] deliciously brainy new thriller ... Happiness Falls dares to unlock the enigma of love at the molecular level while serving up a page-turner.

USA Today
Both a page-turner and a meditation on a family in crisis ... full of gorgeous writing, surprising twists, and personal secrets.

CrimeReads
Kim uses the parallel investigations of police and family to explore the complex dynamics of interracial marriage, Asian and biracial identity in America, and the nuances of raising a child with special needs. You'll want to savor every word as Kim plunges the depths of human action and finds love at the center.

Oprah Quarterly
With unexpected humor and aching tenderness, the bestselling author of Miracle Creek forces us to reckon with our definitions of family, ability, and happiness.

Booklist (starred review)
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.

Kirkus Review (starred review)
The claim that a book will change your life often seems like exaggeration. Here the potential is real.

Publishers Weekly
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.

Reader Reviews

Robin

The Key to Happiness
The book not only seeks to unravel the mystery of a missing father but offers reflections on happiness, musings on the assumptions we all make, and parses out decision making processes. While that might seem like too much for one novel to bear, Angie...   Read More
Gloria M

Imaginative Plot!!
Angie Kim is an excellent writer! This is evident from her choice of quotes to comprise her epigraph at the very beginning of "Happiness Falls." Some readers may be initially reluctant to choose a GMA Book Club selection as it is too "popular/...   Read More
Techeditor

Amazing
I didn't see how Angie Kim could do better than her earlier book, MIRACLE CREEK. But I'm happy to tell you she did. I'm amazed with HAPPINESS FALLS and in more ways than one. Mia tells the story that begins with her missing father. During her ...   Read More
Cathryn Conroy

An Overrated Novel: Disjointed Plot, One-Sided Characters, and Hyped-Up Prose
This is billed as a "thrilling page-turner": A married father of three children goes missing. Is he dead? If he is dead, was it an accident or murder? Was he kidnapped? Did he skip town with a possible paramour? If you, like me, choose to read this ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Non-Speaking Authors Writing About Experiences of Language

Covers of Grodin's memoir and the two poetry books by Wolfond mentioned in article In Angie Kim's Happiness Falls, Eugene is diagnosed with Angelman syndrome, or AS, a neuro-genetic disorder caused by a chromosome-15 gene deletion on the maternal side. Most people with AS have limited speech and motor abilities. It is important to distinguish Angelman syndrome and other conditions that involve learning disabilities from anxiety-related speech conditions such as selective mutism. Some neurotypical people may believe non-speaking people are lacking in the understanding necessary for communication in general, when in fact their communication needs are simply not served by speech, as is the case for Eugene. The See Us, Hear Us campaign discusses how this attitude harms people in detail through a series of documentaries. ...

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Read-Alikes

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