The Half-life of Happiness was a fun book for me to read this summer because it takes place in Charlottesville! I always enjoy getting “lost” in books that take me to new places but it’s also a treat to be “found” in books that happen in familiar places (I have a penchant for English settings for this very reason – takes me back to my study abroad days!). It was fun to recognize more and more of Charlottesville throughout the book as we become better acquainted with our new city.
With that said, on the surface, this plot is not lighthearted. It tells the story of attorney Mike and filmmaker Joss, a married couple at the mid-life crisis of their marriage who are soon sent reeling from major personal revelations. Their two daughters, Edith and Nora, are often caught in the crossfire, and as the story is told, readers hear from grown-up Edith about her hindsight perspective on this time in their lives.
As I said, *on the surface* this plot is not lighthearted, but the banter and situational comedies involving different characters throughout make this book feel lighthearted many times. The dialogue is quick and witty, with many highbrow allusions strewn for good measure. As any good small-town story should include, the cast is lovably imperfect and quirky in each of their own rights. Main characters Mike and Joss face their struggles, seemingly shoot themselves in the foot (feet?), and try to rally over and over again for family. I found them endearing and relatable, even when I know I could never fully grasp the magnitude of their circumstances without having experienced it myself.
In the end, I felt more fully human, more perfectly OK being fully human, and also better able to see the beauty in others’ humanity through all of life’s stages. The best book is one that can give you a glimpse into a mile (or a lifetime) in someone else’s shoes, and this book did just that. This story is a great reminder that no one is perfect, especially ourselves but even early life idols like our parents, and it explores what happens as you grow up and try to reconcile that.
I experienced Charlottesville in a new way from reading this book, and I can’t help but think as I walk down the mall, “I wonder if Joss was here before…” Certainly makes you wonder where the inspiration comes from when you read a book that takes place locally and is written by a local author. Of course it’s fiction, but you know what they say…”real life is stranger than fiction.” 🙂
Rating: 4/5 stars
Stats: 528 pages
Recommended for: A summer read you can sink your teeth into, this book has plenty of family drama and marital troubles, yet with an overarching plot to keep you invested in the big-picture story. I kept turning the pages many late nights while also feeling completely comfortable taking my time (I love books that just let you enjoy them without rushing you along!). Perfect for a week-long getaway to a cabin in the woods…or, perhaps, to Charlottesville 😉
Up next: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. I recently joined a book club here and this is the first book on the docket. I rented it from the local library (resolution still going strong!) and will report back on both the book and the club’s discussion in my next review.