The Week (US)
Novel of the week Secrets of Happiness
(Counterpoint, $27) “Few make fiction feel as exciting as Joan Silber,” said David Canfield in Entertainment Weekly. In her latest novel, she interweaves several stories with a confidence like Elizabeth Strout’s, yet the stories are “all their own in mood and power.” Secrets of Happiness opens on a gay Manhattan lawyer, Ethan, who is about to discover that his father has a second family with a woman he brought to the U.S. from Thailand. “You’d expect that bombshell would send Ethan’s family reeling,” said Maureen Corrigan in NPR.org, “and it sort of does. But something else happens in this expansive and elegantly crafted novel: Silber begins handing off the story, chapter by chapter, to other narrators, among them Ethan’s newly discovered half-brothers, the ex-girlfriend of one of those halfbrothers, and Ethan’s fickle present lover’s former lover.” These characters, forging an almost cosmic bond with one another, each offer penetrating thoughts about love and what it means to live a good life. In this “rueful” novel, contentment, in the end, depends on what a person agrees to put up with.