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Literary Friday: Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

Friday, August 6, 2021


Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing our July Book Club selection:  Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber.  

According to Goodreads:

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, and 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.

The title doesn't make sense to me, either.

My Review:

I am not a fan of this book, and here's why: 

First of all, the book blurb is misleading because the story has a lot of characters, yet they're all connected: some connections are obvious,  others have several degrees of separation.  I suppose one thing sort of fun about the book is figuring out how a certain character from a particular chapter is related to all the others.  I thought the book was going to be mostly about Ethan, but only the first and last chapters tell his story.

The format of the book is unique, but then I realized it's the same concept as the movies Love, Actually and Valentine's Day:  The chapters are little vignettes of the characters' lives except, unlike the movies, none of the characters in the novel are likable.  They're terrible people for the most part, and are "victims" of their own poor decisions.  It's almost impossible for me to like a book if I can't stand the characters.

Plus there are inconsistencies in the book I attribute to bad editing.  Early in the book, an American character is killed by a speeding taxi in England.  The book says that "he came out of a pub and looked right instead of left."  If that had been the case the character would've survived.  I hate mistakes like this in a book because it destroys the suspension of disbelief.  

I probably would've chosen this book without it being a book club selection because I enjoy family dramas, especially those with secrets.  Plus, this book was hyped like a rockstar.  Lately, I've been very disappointed in highly publicized and hyped books, so I'll probably give them a hard pass from now on.

Lovelies, I'm in a terrible book rut, the worst one in years.  I need your book recommendations ASAP!  

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I appreciate an honest and thoughtful review. I find stories like that work extremely well in a film like Love Actually (but then, those characters are for the most part, quite endearing and lovable) and not so much in a book -- especially when the characters are terrible people! I'll give this one a pass!

  2. Thanks for the honest review, yours is quite opposite of the Goodreads review, interesting! Their was a guy in my neighborhood who had another wife and family in Mississippi where he went for work several days a week, can you imagine?? When his Birmingham wife found out it was quite the scandal!

  3. Have you read the Widows of Malabar Hill? I think you would like it. I'm reading the second one now in the series and loving the strong female character more and more. Set in India...I love learning about other cultures. Check it out!!!

  4. Nice to read an open and honest review

  5. Thank you for your review, Ricki Jill. You've probably read Rosamunde Pilcher's books, but I love her characters and her novels.


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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