Happiness

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Happiness

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This impressive collection of 12 stories, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award, captures finely tuned moments of contemporary family life, bringing a new texture to familiar themes. The charm of Harleman's families is that they never resort to self-pity; their heroism lies in an acceptance of life, a stiff-upper-lipped persistence in the face of uncertainty. In ``Someone Else'' a childless couple drift apart over more than a decade while the husband is slowly seduced by a neighbor's daughter. Narrated by the wife, the story never wavers from the compassionate voice. Instead, she worries about the housekeeping--``my mother made me sleep under the bed with the dustballs; I learned.'' In ``Dancing Fish,'' one of the most powerful stories, a troubled college student returns home with his African girlfriend and taunts his parents with a feigned suicide attempt. ``This is a test,'' the last line reads. Indeed, Harleman's characters are forever testing one another; though they search for answers, they do not always want to hear the truth. In the title story, a community college professor tries to teach Plato to students who prefer aphorisms to harsh logic. One student declares, ``Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.'' Harleman has a rich, melancholy voice that shows remarkable control and summons meticulous detail in stories that are poignant and assured. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In this collection of 12 short stories, Harleman writes subtly but powerfully about interpersonal relationships. Each tale focuses on attachments and separations: love, commitment, passion, and responsibility. ``In Damascus'' features an elderly widow anxious to tell her daughters about an affair she had in her youth as a foreign service wife. In ``Imagined Colors,'' a young wife struggles with an attraction to her art teacher while her husband silently attempts to understand. ``Happiness'' depicts an aloof academic, estranged from his lover, who is tracked down by a coarse but well-meaning half-brother. ``It Was Humdrum'' is the reason a woman gives her adult son for abandoning him as a child--a rather poignant commentary on family life. Regardless of circumstances, the author sympathetically presents her introspective protagonists, who are genuine and filled with desires. For most collections.-- Kimberly G. Allen, MCI Corporate Information Resources Ctr., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781587296574
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2008
  • Series: Iowa Short Fiction Award
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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