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The Underside of Joy
     

The Underside of Joy

4.3 33
by Ser? Prince Halverson
 

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Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson's compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.

To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two

Overview

Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson's compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.

To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. Yet one summer day Joe breaks his own rule-never turn your back on the ocean-and a sleeper wave strikes him down, drowning not only the man but his many secrets.

For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known and has believed that their biological mother, Paige, abandoned them. But when Paige shows up at the funeral, intent on reclaiming the children, Ella soon realizes there may be more to Paige and Joe's story. "Ella's the best thing that's happened to this family," say her close-knit Italian-American in-laws, for generations the proprietors of a local market. But their devotion quickly falters when the custody fight between mother and stepmother urgently and powerfully collides with Ella's quest for truth.

The Underside of Joy is not a fairy-tale version of stepmotherhood pitting good Ella against evil Paige, but an exploration of the complex relationship of two mothers. Their conflict uncovers a map of scars-both physical and emotional-to the families' deeply buried tragedies, including Italian internment camps during World War II and postpartum psychosis.

Weaving a rich fictional tapestry abundantly alive with the glorious natural beauty of the novel's setting, Halverson is a captivating guide through the flora and fauna of human emotion-grief and anger, shame and forgiveness, happiness and its shadow complement . . . the underside of joy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Fleeing a failed marriage, Ella Beene arrives in Elbow, Calif., where she meets Joe and his two children, abandoned four months ago by Paige, who suffered from postpartum depression. After a quick marriage, Ella’s new life turns upside down after only three years when Joe drowns, leaving her a business deeply in debt and an ex-wife back in town intent on regaining custody of the children that Ella has come to love. A difficult custody battle results in Paige taking her children to Las Vegas. Ella follows, to be closer to the children, and the two women sustain a heated conflict until a terrible accident involving Zach, the youngest, makes them realize that they each care for these children deeply. Halverson paints a lovely picture of smalltown life and intimate family drama, creating sympathy for Ella, which is easy, but also for Paige, whose own troubled past complicates a figure that would ordinarily be demonized. Nuanced characters and a lack of cliché make for a winning debut. Agent: Weed Literary. (Jan.)
Booklist
Booklist
Halverson's debut novel marks her as a strong new voice in women's fiction...this would make an excellent book-club choice.
People Style Watch
[An] exquisite debut... moving and hopeful
Sarah Weinman
Seré Prince Halverson's emotionally rich debut novel . . . weaves complex subplots with deceptive ease. . . . The strength of this novel is in its empathy for all its characters—and for two women who want what's best for the children they both love with equal claim on motherhood.
Publishers Marketplace
Shelf Awareness
Seré Prince Halverson's debut novel is a faultless exploration of sadness and shame, anger and forgiveness; a story well told about people we would like to know.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Ella Beene is devastated by husband Joe's death—and even more devastated when his ex-wife, Paige, shows up at the funeral to reclaim the children Ella has been tenderly stepmothering for several years. As Ella battles for custody, she also tries to understand what scarred Joe and Paige's marriage irreparably. Subject to a bidding war, sold to 13 territories, and pitched at BEA's Editors Buzz Panel, this debut would seem to be a hot commodity for January.
Kirkus Reviews - Kirkus Reviews
A poignant debut about mothers, secrets and sacrifices. When Ella is suddenly widowed (Joe has drowned in a freak accident) she reacts as any young woman would--disbelief mixed with a frantic need to keep things normal for their two small children. But on the tail of grief comes disaster: she didn't know their Italian grocery is nearing bankruptcy and the children's mother has come to reclaim them. Three years ago Ella stopped in a small Northern California town, met Joe and never left. Joe's wife Paige had abandoned Joe and the children a few months prior to Ella's arrival and sent a few letters begging him to move on. Joe and Ella married, and she became mother to infant Zach and toddler Annie. Now Joe is dead and Paige is back demanding her children. The store that Joe inherited from his grandfather (an Italian-American who was interned during World War II) is foundering, so to save the store, and in turn secure custody of the children, Ella decides to transform the grocery into a gourmet deli, serving the tourists who flock to Sonoma. In custody mediation it seems Ella will win (judges take a poor view on disappearing mothers), though Paige insists she has been writing and trying to see the children for years. When custody has almost been finalized in Ella's favor, she finds the stack of Paige's letters, hidden by Joe. The letters tell a different story: of Paige suffering from postpartum depression, of her dismissed fears that she might hurt the children, of running away to get help and hospitalization and, finally, of Paige writing to come back to her marriage and children and finding she has already been replaced. History must be revised for both of these women: Who are they to each other now? What kind of a husband did they have in Joe? Halverson avoids sentimentality, aiming for higher ground in this lucid and graceful examination of the dangers and blessings of familial bonds.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781410447166
Publisher:
Gale Cengage Learning
Publication date:
05/23/2012
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Pages:
446
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are Saying About This

Marisa de los Santos
The writing in The Underside of Joy is as purely beautiful as the story is emotionally complex. When Ella Beene is wrenched from a state of unexamined happiness into confusion and grief, she finds that her only hope of emerging whole is to face searing and long-buried truths. Ella embarks on a difficult journey, both morally and materially, one that requires her to risk losing everything she most loves. I cheered (sometimes through tears) her every step. (Marisa de los Santos, author of Love Walked In)
Caroline Leavitt
Searingly smart and exquisitely written, Halverson's knockout debut limns family, marriage and a custody battle in a way that gets under your skin and leaves you changed. To say I loved this book would be an understatement. (Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You)

Meet the Author

SERÉ PRINCE HALVERSON lives in northern California and worked as a freelance copywriter for twenty years while she wrote fiction. She and her husband have four grown children. She is a mom and a stepmom, and grew up with a mom and a stepmom. This is her debut novel.

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The Underside of Joy 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
mellow More than 1 year ago
I loved every moment of this book.When Ella loses her husband she assumes she'll raise the step-children she loves as her own. Then their 'real' mother shows up to claim them and so begins a tug of war between two women for custody of the children they both love. Just as in real life, there are no easy answers and therein lies the beauty of the book. But it is easy to fall in love with the characters. The setting will also draw you in; northern California charms even as its 'underside' is revealed. Read this book and be prepared for a journey into the lives of characters you'll root for, laugh and cry with, and finally, carry with you long after you close the book.
DanaB11 More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that you can't wait to see what happens next! The author's powerful writing grabs you in to the story right from the start and takes you on an emotional journey that will make you laugh, cry, and get down right mad at times! Thoroughly enjoyed this book and the author's writing style. I believe this is Ms. Halverson's debut book -- definitely one of my new favorite authors, and I look forward to reading more of her work.
mslisa2u More than 1 year ago
The Underside of Joy was chosen as a BEA Editor's Buzz pick and after reading Seré Prince Halverson's debut novel, you can see why. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak and the book grabbed me from the first page. My once voracious reading habit has dulled in the past few years (thanks to graduate school) and I can't remember a book that I just couldn't put down. While at work the next day, I wondered what was going to happen to Ella Beene, Paige and the kids. I finished the book in two days. The story is unique, the writing sublime, and I felt like I was really in touch with the characters. Halverson truly explored both sides of this complex story without taking sides affording the reader to make their own decision. A brilliant debut.
512texan More than 1 year ago
A BEA Editor's Buzz pick, I loved this book. The story is heart wrenchingly beautiful. I highly recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Quick easy read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Smiles. Gtg bye.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hello
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a girl14 and i am looking for some nook sex reply to unicormluvr
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why did u leave?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amber?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Takes his hand out shoving his toungue in lapping up cu.m
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
" cant you tied me " loocks at her tied wrists
Beverly_D More than 1 year ago
Mesmerizing, poignant, happy, heartbreaking. Told through the point of view of Ella Beene, she is a fully realized character who makes mistakes, but never stops trying to do the right thing, even when she is not SURE what the right thing is. The writing itself is beautiful, and the plot twists and turns in ways I didn't expect, but what I loved is that there were no villains. A character would do something that I thought was horrible, and I would be so angry with him (or her) and then it would be revealed WHY s/he did that thing, and s/he had my total sympathy. Just another human being trying to do the best s/he could. This could be triggering to anyone who's lost a spouse, or a child, via death or divorce, or it could be empowering.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was expecting more of a storyline to this book. Not enough of an emotional book for me. To predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story was well-told. What could have been a heavy-handed melodrama is lightened with humor and fairness. The depictions in the family dynamic are spot on and very real. The descriptions of the town of Elbow and its environs make you want to pack up your Birkies and go.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Underside of Joy looks at the role of the step-mother in forming a cohesive family and the threat that ensures when that bond is threatened. I admit that it forced me to walk in a different pair of shoes throughout the novel and I found a great deal of sympathy with both the biological mother and step-mother as they tried to bridge the gulf between them. Seré Prince Halverson has an easy style of writing that lets the words glide across the pages. A good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Underside of Joy I highly recommend The Underside of Joy. It is a wonderful story about finding hope when the unthinkable happens. The novel tells the story of Ella Beane, whose world is ripped apart when the love of her life, her husband Joe, dies, and the birth mother of her two children, Paige, returns to claim them. Ella is a very likeable character, strong and vulnerable at the same time. I was swept up in her story from the very first page. In this beautifully woven novel, Ella must uncover the truth, as horrific and heartbreaking as it is at times, and chose between what she believes is best not only for her and her beloved step-children, but what is right. Through her skillfully crafted prose and compelling cast of characters, author Seré Prince Halverson's examines how family deals with tragedy and loss, hurt and betrayal, secrets and lies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
csingh More than 1 year ago
This is Sere Prince Halverson's debut book and simply put, it is beautiful. Ella Beane and Joe Capozzi, Jr. have been married for three years. They met and had a whirlwind courtship and were married in a few months after meeting each other. When Joe and Ella met, both were having/running away from their pasts/problems. Ella had just left a marriage broken by her inability to carry a child to term, and Joe was dealing with the fallout of his wife Paige leaving without warning and trying to raise his two young children. When one day Joe breaks his own rule, to never turn your back on the ocean, Ella's world comes crashing down. With Joe gone, Ella is basically the sole care taker of the kids, but she has Joe's family, his parents and brother David, along with her friend Lucy to provide her with advice and support. She works to keep Joe's family business open and from being drowned in debt. On top of all this and her grief at losing Joe, Paige, the children's beautiful biological mother comes back into the picture and it seems she is hostile towards Ella and has a hidden agenda. But Ella is dealing with everything and doesn't have time to let Paige's machinations get to her. Until she receives a subpoena because Paige has filed for physical custody of the kids. I've given away too much of the story, but you have to understand Ella really loves these kids. She's keeping Joe's business and his family's history going, and she's raising these children as her own. When Paige walked out on them, Annie was 3 and Zach was only a few months old. They call her Mommy. So when Ella finds something that can change the course of the custodial hearing she's torn. Does she submit the evidence or does she keep quiet. Ms.Halverson has done an amazing job at writing this book and her characters. They're all complex, and definitely now black and white. The shades of grey make you relate and empathize to each and every character, even Paige. I was reading his book while in public and had to try really hard to keep my tears in control in different parts of the book. Ms.Halverson's descriptions are so apt, that I could picture myself on the beach, in the morgue with Ella, looking at Joe's body, the description of the Capozzi family's shop, etc. It was just evocative and stirring overall. I must say I am blown away by this book and by Sere Prince Halverson. She has a gift for writing and I look forward to reading her future books.
auntee9 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. It kept my interest throughout and brought up a lot of other topics. The step-mother was pretty clueless and living in a la-la land. A lived-happily-ever-after book.
anovelreview_blogspot_com More than 1 year ago
1 Kings 3:16-28, the Bible tells of a story of two women fighting over who was the the mother of one living child. The case was brought before King Solomon, who said he would cut the baby in two, so both women would have the child. One of the women yelled out, "Please, my Lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" After the woman yelled this out he handed her the baby proclaiming, she was indeed the child's mother (NIV). The Underside of Joy is a heart-wrenching story of two mothers fighting over 'their' children. Ella Beene and Joe Capozzi have made a wonder and caring home for Annie and Zach. Filled with love and surrounded by Joe's big Italian family. One looking in from the outside would never guess that Ella is the stepmother, because in every single way she is their real...and only mother. Paige Capozzi, the children's biological mother couldn't handle the stress of motherhood. Soon after having Zach, she just checked out. As far as everyone knew she hadn't even bothered to send the kids cards or called to see how they were doing. Joe divorced her shortly after he met Ella, who openly welcomed motherhood. And for three years Joe and Ella seemed to have it all. It all ended one summer morning in '99. Suddenly, Joe is gone and Ella is on her own with the kids, helping them to deal with their grief. When out of nowhere, Paige turns up. She is ready to take her children back and is ready to fight for them as their biological mother. Ella's world is turned even more upside than she thought possible, as Paige begins making outrageous claims about Joe. Two women fighting over the children they believe to be theirs. The Underside of Joy will have you asking yourself...what makes a mother, but wait to make judgement because you might not have the whole story. The Underside of Joy is Seré Prince Halverson debut novel. This one had be grabbing for the kleenex over and over and over again! But don't worry you won't be crying long, because you won't hardly be able to put it down! I absolutely LOVED this book! I mean it really plays with the heartstrings. I'm not a stepmother, but I know without a doubt if I was I would be just as much a mama bear as I would be with my biological children making me relate to Ella...and if someone was with my biological children no matter who she was or how wonderful she was to my children, well she wouldn't be me and I would fight like crazy for them, so I could relate on some level to Paige! What a story! And what I've written about today is only the first layer of this amazing story! That's right there is so much more, so much deeper. Ella really walks through some serious stuff to find her way to the end. I have only good things about this book, it was amazing! This is a book I know I will be sharing with the women in my life!