Wednesday, June 15, 2011

As Promised: The Underside of Joy

A little family begins a sunny new day and immediately engages us in their amusing let’s-pretend rituals. It’s idyllic. It’s totally believable. You’d be happy to go on like this forever. But only a few pages in, the joy is abruptly shattered. The daddy, already off for the day, is killed in an unthinkable accident.

We’re as numb and heartsick as the mom, Ella, as she struggles through the essentials of family and funeral. But there’s little time for coping as the tragedy quickly compounds. Paige, the first wife who abandoned the children as babies, shows up at the funeral. Although Ella is the only mother the kids have ever known, Paige methodically begins to insinuate herself into their lives.

Then, besides the insurance policy they never got around to activating, Ella discovers that her husband and his close-knit Italian family have shielded her from the fact that their store is failing and deeply in debt. Now Paige is back with a lawyer demanding custody of the children. Through it all, Ella is determined, resourceful, and poignantly human.

From the cover blurb: “The Underside of Joy is…the conflict (between Ella and Paige) that 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.”

It is this debut treasure from author Seré Prince Halverson that got me through a long flight with layovers from NYC to Houston. This is a story that could happen, and probably has happened, any number of times, yet unique in the telling. Its power lies in its reality and relatability. But it’s a story I probably would not have found had Seré’s friend Elle Newmark not sent me in search of her.

Thank you, ladies!


Seré said...

Thank you for this lovely review, Mary! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. And thank you, too, for finding me at BEA (no easy feat in that huge maze) and giving me Elle's message. It meant a great deal to me. Best of luck to you with your writing and I do hope our paths cross again.

Mary Fagan said...

The book was a wonderful read. I'm so glad Elle put me onto it. The Javits IS a daunting maze! I had help from the concierge desk, the information desk, and my publicist's GPS