Secrets to Happiness

Secrets to Happiness

3.4 41
by Sarah Dunn
     
 

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Holly Frick has just endured the worst kind of breakup: the kind where you're still in love with the person leaving you. While her wounds are still dangerously close to the surface, her happily married best friend confesses over a bottle of wine that she is this close to having an affair. And another woman comes to Holly for advice about her love

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Overview

Holly Frick has just endured the worst kind of breakup: the kind where you're still in love with the person leaving you. While her wounds are still dangerously close to the surface, her happily married best friend confesses over a bottle of wine that she is this close to having an affair. And another woman comes to Holly for advice about her love life—with Holly's ex!

Holly decides that if everyone around her can take pleasure wherever they find it, so will she. As any self-respecting 30ish New York woman would do, she brings two males into her life: a flawed but endearing dog, and a good natured, much younger lover. She's soon entangled in a web of emails, chance meetings, and misguided good intentions and must forge an entirely new path to Nirvana.

From the author of The Big Love, Secrets to Happiness is a big-hearted, knife-sharp, and hilariously entertaining story about the perils of love and friendship, sex and betrayal—and a thoroughly modern take on our struggle to be happy.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
"Unlike chick lit, chick TV and chick movies, Secrets to Happiness is actually funny.... In the end, what makes Dunn's novel such a pleasure to read is the very thing that keeps it from being a breathless page-turner: Holly's singular spirituality. She may be as baffled as everyone else about how to achieve happiness, but she also knows that happiness isn't all that it's cracked up to be. In a world -- fictional and non- -- where doing a good thing gets you accused of having a messiah complex, and doing whatever you want is justified as following your path, Holly never stops trying to figure out where her duty lies. Underneath it all -- the sex, the shopping, the city -- she's an old-fashioned heroine. Also funny."
The New York Observer
"Secrets to Happiness is smart, bitingly funny, laced with sitcom-sharp dialogue and bittersweet. Far from a confectionary tale, it reads more like a spiritual journey, one that follows Holly and a cast of supporting characters as they try to turn their lives around.... But since this is not a chick-lit book, a guy is not the answer here. For Holly and her supporting cast, the secret to happiness is embracing the fact that, as one character states, it's O.K. to live an ordinary life. This means accepting a life they would have otherwise shunned."
The Wall Street Journal
"Ms. Dunn shuttles her characters around New York with deft precision, weaving their lives together seamlessly."
Jincy Willett
In the end, what makes Dunn's novel such a pleasure to read is the very thing that keeps it from being a breathless page-turner: Holly's singular spirituality. She may be as baffled as everyone else about how to achieve happiness, but she also knows that happiness isn't all it's cracked up to be. In a world—fictional and non- —where doing a good thing gets you accused of having a messiah complex, and doing whatever you want is justified as following your path, Holly never stops trying to figure out where her duty lies. Underneath it all—the sex, the shopping, the city—she's an old-fashioned heroine. Also funny.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Dunn charts several New Yorkers' lives in this snappy novel. The spotlight most often falls on Holly Frick, a 35-year-old divorcée whose egg walls "are taking on the consistency of tissue paper as we speak." A writer whose cheeky first novel bombed, Holly now resides low enough on the TV totem pole to be cranking out after-school dreck with her gay pal Leonard. Meanwhile, her best friend, Amanda, is cheating on her husband, and Holly adopts Chester, a cute little dog with cancer whose hopeful approach to life mirrors Holly's. While Holly's love life follows a formula-familiar trajectory, Amanda's romantic flailing ensnares Holly, and Chester's destiny takes an unexpected turn that means big changes for both of them. Although clichés pop up (the supergay friend, a $1,200 purse splurge), the energetic and witty prose speeds along the narrative. It's smarter than the usual single-in-the-city fare, and funnier, too. (Mar.)

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Library Journal

Like Dunn's heroine in her debut, The Big Love, Holly Frick is brokenhearted and looking for happiness against the backdrop of hectic New York City. Holly believes in doing the right thing. Whether it's a result of her evangelical Christian upbringing or just a generally overactive conscience, the "right thing" includes adopting a dog with a brain tumor and meeting her married friend's paramour because her friend thinks they'll like each other. The assorted cast of supporting characters includes a 22-year-old lover, a skinny girl who finally agrees to date the overweight guy from her gym, and a gay man who has an unhealthy relationship with his attention deficit disorder meds. These characters circle around Holly in an exploration of six degrees of separation as she touches each of them-and they her-in their quests for happiness. Readers of Dunn's previous novel and fans of Jennifer Weiner and Jane Green will enjoy the sophisticated tone of this classic searching-for-love story. Recommended for popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/08.]
—Anika Fajardo

Booklist
"Dunn displays a rapier wit; a perfectly nuanced gift for savvy, sophisticated dialogue; and an endearing moral compass, which she uses to great advantage as she blithely navigates the fraught and fatuous world of trendy New York's treacherous dating scene."
Entertainment Weekly
"Secrets to Happiness ... makes for good, sharp fun."
Marie Claire
"A savory treat...packed with dogs, divorce, and dizzying dysfunction."
People
"A big-city smart, yet universally appealing, little gem. . . . The hapless protagonist of this topical novel is such a clever observer of modern life, offering a wealth of Exacto-sharp theories that echo sentiments we may feel but would hesitate to express."
TIME
"Sarah Dunn is a wise and brilliant writer who doesn't sacrifice emotional complexity for low humor--she gives you both."
New York Observer
"SECRETS TO HAPPINESSis smart, bitingly funny, laced with sitcom-sharp dialogue, and bittersweet. Far from a confectionary tale, it reads more like a spiritual journey, one that follows Holly and a cast of supporting characters as they try to turn their lives around. . . . But since this is not a chick-lit book, a guy is not the answer here. For Holly and her supporting cast, the secret to happiness is embracing the fact that, as one character states, it's OK to live an ordinary life. This means accepting a life they would have otherwise shunned."
Boston Globe
"Sarah Dunn's novel zips along hilariously, fueled by pitch-perfect dialogue. . . . SECRETS TO HAPPINESS is an antic urban comedy, with enough neurotic characters to fill the cast of a Woody Allen movie. It's great fun."
Delia Ephron
I love this book. Sarah Dunn is very funny, that's the first thing to say. But she is also deep, interesting and subtle. Her characters could be my friends and yet they utterly surprise me. She is so smart about life and society and the complex and contradictory ways our hearts behave. "Oh that is so true." As I read Secrets to Happiness, I found myself thinking that again and again and again.
author of Hanging Up and co-writer of You've Got Mail
Christopher Moore
Secrets to Happiness is a fun, insightful portrait of the urban professional woman, and mercifully devoid of shoe shopping scenes. Sarah Dunn is a terrifically talented writer with a brilliant sense of comic timing.
author of Lamb and A Dirty Job
Emily Giffin
A smart, heartwarmingly funny story about modern love in the city.Secrets to Happinessis brimming with Sarah Dunn's vivid characters and engaging voice and will linger long after you've finished the last page. I love this book!
author of Love the One You're With and Something Borrowed
Toby Young
Sarah Dunn achieves what so many authors set out to do but so few manage: she captures the Zeitgeist. If you can imagine a cross between Candace Bushnell and Edith Wharton, that is Sarah Dunn.
author of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
Wall Street Journal
"Ms. Dunn shuttles her characters around New York with deft precision, weaving their lives together seamlessly."
The Miami Herald
"Here's a secret: Read the book. More likely than not, it'll make you happy."
Delia Ephron - author of Hanging Up and co-writer of You've Got Mail
"I love this book. Sarah Dunn is very funny, that's the first thing to say. But she is also deep, interesting and subtle. Her characters could be my friends and yet they utterly surprise me. She is so smart about life and society and the complex and contradictory ways our hearts behave. "Oh that is so true." As I read Secrets to Happiness, I found myself thinking that again and again and again."
Christopher Moore - author of Lamb and A Dirty Job
"Secrets to Happiness is a fun, insightful portrait of the urban professional woman, and mercifully devoid of shoe shopping scenes. Sarah Dunn is a terrifically talented writer with a brilliant sense of comic timing."
Emily Giffin - author of Love the One You're With and Something Borrowed
"A smart, heartwarmingly funny story about modern love in the city.Secrets to Happinessis brimming with Sarah Dunn's vivid characters and engaging voice and will linger long after you've finished the last page. I love this book!"
Toby Young - author of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
"Sarah Dunn achieves what so many authors set out to do but so few manage: she captures the Zeitgeist. If you can imagine a cross between Candace Bushnell and Edith Wharton, that is Sarah Dunn."
From the Publisher
"SECRETS TO HAPPINESSis smart, bitingly funny, laced with sitcom-sharp dialogue, and bittersweet. Far from a confectionary tale, it reads more like a spiritual journey, one that follows Holly and a cast of supporting characters as they try to turn their lives around. . . . But since this is not a chick-lit book, a guy is not the answer here. For Holly and her supporting cast, the secret to happiness is embracing the fact that, as one character states, it's OK to live an ordinary life. This means accepting a life they would have otherwise shunned."—New York Observer"

Sarah Dunn's novel zips along hilariously, fueled by pitch-perfect dialogue. . . . SECRETS TO HAPPINESS is an antic urban comedy, with enough neurotic characters to fill the cast of a Woody Allen movie. It's great fun."—Boston Globe"

I love this book. Sarah Dunn is very funny, that's the first thing to say. But she is also deep, interesting and subtle. Her characters could be my friends and yet they utterly surprise me. She is so smart about life and society and the complex and contradictory ways our hearts behave. "Oh that is so true." As I read Secrets to Happiness, I found myself thinking that again and again and again."—Delia Ephron, author of Hanging Up and co-writer of You've Got Mail"

Secrets to Happiness is a fun, insightful portrait of the urban professional woman, and mercifully devoid of shoe shopping scenes. Sarah Dunn is a terrifically talented writer with a brilliant sense of comic timing."—Christopher Moore, author of Lamb and A Dirty Job"

A smart, heartwarmingly funny story about modern love in the city.Secrets to Happinessis brimming with Sarah Dunn's vivid characters and engaging voice and will linger long after you've finished the last page. I love this book!"—Emily Giffin, author of Love the One You're With and Something Borrowed"

Sarah Dunn achieves what so many authors set out to do but so few manage: she captures the Zeitgeist. If you can imagine a cross between Candace Bushnell and Edith Wharton, that is Sarah Dunn."—Toby Young, author of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People"

Sharp-witted Dunn follows her debut (The Big Love, 2004) with a ... tale simultaneously elevated by its snappy humor and tinged by some reflective shading.... Deft repartee and happy endings all around ... in this smart chick-lit tale with dark undertones."—Kirkus"

Dunn charts several New Yorkers' lives in this snappy novel..... the energetic and witty prose speeds along the narrative. It's smarter than the usual single-in-the-city fare, and funnier, too."—Publishers Weekly"

Dunn displays a rapier wit; a perfectly nuanced gift for savvy, sophisticated dialogue; and an endearing moral compass, which she uses to great advantage as she blithely navigates the fraught and fatuous world of trendy New York's treacherous dating scene."—Booklist"

A savory treat...packed with dogs, divorce, and dizzying dysfunction."—Marie Claire"

Secrets to Happiness ... makes for good, sharp fun."—Entertainment Weekly"

A big-city smart, yet universally appealing, little gem. . . . The hapless protagonist of this topical novel is such a clever observer of modern life, offering a wealth of Exacto-sharp theories that echo sentiments we may feel but would hesitate to express."—People"

Ms. Dunn shuttles her characters around New York with deft precision, weaving their lives together seamlessly."—Wall Street Journal"

Sarah Dunn is a wise and brilliant writer who doesn't sacrifice emotional complexity for low humor—she gives you both."—TIME"

Here's a secret: Read the book. More likely than not, it'll make you happy."—The Miami Herald

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316013581
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
03/25/2009
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are saying about this

Delia Ephron
"I love this book. Sarah Dunn is very funny; that's the first thing to say. But she is also deep, interesting, and subtle. Her characters could be my friends, and yet they utterly surprise me. She is so smart about life and society and the complex and contradictory ways our hearts behave. Oh, that is so true. As I read Secrets to Happiness, I found myself thinking that again and again and again."--(Delia Ephron, author of Hanging Up and co-writer of You've Got Mail)
Toby Young
"Sarah Dunn achieves what so many authors set out to do but so few manage: she captures the Zeitgeist. If you can imagine a cross between Candace Bushnell and Edith Wharton, that is Sarah Dunn."--(Toby Young, author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People)

Meet the Author

Sarah Dunn has moved from Los Angeles to New York five times, and from New York back to Los Angeles four times, which means she is happily back in New York, where she lives with her husband, Peter Stevenson, and their son, Harry. Her first novel, The Big Love, has been translated into 23 languages.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
July 28, 1969
Place of Birth:
Phoenix, Arizona
Education:
B.A. University of Pennsylvania, 1991

Customer Reviews

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Secrets to Happiness 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
Frisbeesage More than 1 year ago
What is the secret to happiness? This is a question you'll hear a lot these days! Holly thinks that she knows the secrets until her husband leaves her. She's back at the drawing board and with a hunky, young lover, a sweet, ill dog, and a cheating best friend all to help her figure it out. This book starts (and ends) with great, quirky, loveable characters. They are all flawed and each trying their best to find the ever elusive happiness. I love that Sarah Dunn explores all the options. Sure, for some, the secret to happiness is a white picket fence. But in the modern world it can also be a sad, sweet dog, the man your best friend is having an affair with, or the job you thought you hated. You have to open to happiness from anywhere, you never know when it will strike! Secrets to Happiness is sharply funny and yet still sweet and warm hearted. Sarah Dunn pokes fun of her characters even while she is guiding them down the path to happiness. I really enjoyed this book. It was smart enough to keep me reading and warm enough to make me feel good in the end.
megson More than 1 year ago
If you want to laugh this is the book for you. Sarah Dunn's characters are hilarious and her voice just makes it funnier. The story is great and moves along at a great pace. I have passed this book along to two friends and each one loved it as much as I did. I couldn't put it down and I laughed out loud and even laughed so hard I cried a few times. I will re-read it once I get it back. It also has a lot of meaning about what we expect from life and the roles we think we need to play and what actually happens. Even though it takes place in New York, I think anyone who like a funny read about relationships will get a kick out of it.
segw More than 1 year ago
I sat down with this book not expecting much - I did buy it for the cover. I ended up flying through the pages and enjoying a few emotional moments where my heart ached and tears swelled in my eyes.
Karen-LeBlanc More than 1 year ago
Holly Frick, the main character, believes in the basic goodness and morality of humanity but finds herself more and more disappointed as she sees the failings and shortcomings of those closest to her. In a humorous expose of her misadventures, Holly finds herself busy trying to keep those around her on the straight and narrow. Meanwhile, she misses opportunities for her own happiness until she realizes the secret is letting go of her expectations of others while learning to live with and accept the imperfections of humanity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Very realistic to life today; and I think that is important. A love of reading can stem from an escape using the imagination, or from wanting/needing to relate to something. This was a perfect blend. I suggest it to anyone. You cannot knock a simple, easy, feel good, realistic read like this.
Sara Diamond More than 1 year ago
I liked the quirky characters and the twists in the plot. Very relate-able to any NYC woman!
Joshua Bracking More than 1 year ago
I loved all the unexpected twists and turns of this novel. It was a fun read with funny characters. I loved Holly's character and how determined she was to do the right hing even living in such a big modern day city. Looking forward to the next read by Sarah Dunn!
SimplyHappy More than 1 year ago
It was such a fun read.
Kimmiepoppins More than 1 year ago
I am so glad I discovered Sarah Dunn--I absolutely loved this book. It was a nuanced mixture of truth and humor that I found both smart and entertaining. All of the characters had range and depth--keeping me slightly off balance even though I found them highly relatable. If you are a fan of Liane Moriarty's books, you're going to love SECRETS TO HAPPINESS.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Maggie1st More than 1 year ago
The characters were so dis-organized and heading no place. When reading a page turner you want to keep going and see why they are doing what they are doing, in this book you never cared what the people were doing. Their is no plot or purpose. Half way threw the book i kept thinking about the poor sick dog in the apartment that is spoke of in maybe 4 pages. This sick dog is who knows where? He is dropped from the story for the next 100 pages. I bought the book because of the high reviews. Save your money! Save your time!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Emilie Lasseter More than 1 year ago
This book was cute, but expected. The writing is OK. Not a page turner though.
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luv2read_88 More than 1 year ago
good summer read, but was expecting a better ending. Holly is a funny character.