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Happiness: A Memoir: How to Build a Family Out of True Love and Spare Parts

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A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices. Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side st A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices. Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant—Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn't want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie's arrival, Heather's bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, "Get dressed, your baby is in trouble." This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled "like sliced apples and salted pretzels" but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie's condition grows dire; together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood. The grace and humor that ripple through Harpham's writing transform the dross of heartbreak and parental fears into a clear-eyed, warm-hearted view of the world. Profoundly moving and subtly written, Happiness radiates in many directions--new, romantic love; gratitude for a beautiful, inscrutable world; deep, abiding friendship; the passion a parent has for a child; and the many unlikely ways to build a family. Ultimately it's a story about love and happiness, in their many crooked configurations.


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A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices. Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side st A shirt-grabbing, page-turning love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices. Happiness begins with a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, a world-roaming California girl, and Brian, an intellectual, homebody writer, kind and slyly funny, but loath to leave his Upper West Side studio. Their magical interlude ends, full stop, when Heather becomes pregnant—Brian is sure he loves her, only he doesn't want kids. Heather returns to California to deliver their daughter alone, buoyed by family and friends. Mere hours after Gracie's arrival, Heather's bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, "Get dressed, your baby is in trouble." This is not how Heather had imagined new motherhood – alone, heartsick, an unexpectedly solo caretaker of a baby who smelled "like sliced apples and salted pretzels" but might be perilously ill. Brian reappears as Gracie's condition grows dire; together Heather and Brian have to decide what they are willing to risk to ensure their girl sees adulthood. The grace and humor that ripple through Harpham's writing transform the dross of heartbreak and parental fears into a clear-eyed, warm-hearted view of the world. Profoundly moving and subtly written, Happiness radiates in many directions--new, romantic love; gratitude for a beautiful, inscrutable world; deep, abiding friendship; the passion a parent has for a child; and the many unlikely ways to build a family. Ultimately it's a story about love and happiness, in their many crooked configurations.

30 review for Happiness: A Memoir: How to Build a Family Out of True Love and Spare Parts

  1. 5 out of 5

    Karen R

    A powerful and heart wrenching story that touched my every emotion. Author Heather Harpham’s newborn Gracie was born with a life-threatening blood disease. This intelligently written memoir is frank, sad, uplifting and feels straight from the heart. Heather and ex-boyfriend Brian are living on different coasts when she phones Brian to share the devastating news about baby Gracie. Brian admirably steps up to his responsibility and his steadfast dedication to Heather and Gracie is truly amazing. I A powerful and heart wrenching story that touched my every emotion. Author Heather Harpham’s newborn Gracie was born with a life-threatening blood disease. This intelligently written memoir is frank, sad, uplifting and feels straight from the heart. Heather and ex-boyfriend Brian are living on different coasts when she phones Brian to share the devastating news about baby Gracie. Brian admirably steps up to his responsibility and his steadfast dedication to Heather and Gracie is truly amazing. I felt sad for him at times though, as Heather could be so dismissive. 100% of her energy went into Grace and she had nothing left to give to Brian. Understandable but still…sad. Heather does give Brian plenty of props in the book though and rightly so. He was a thoughtful one, the voice of reason and the glue that will hold the family together.. Fast forward.. Gracie is now 3 and preparations are underway for her bone marrow transplant. Happy, bubbly, curious Gracie shows strength and wisdom well beyond her years. Her “out of the mouths of babes” comments are priceless. I embraced the humor Harpham injects that offsets sad moments. My heart broke over and over as Heather chronicles the progression of days leading up to and during Gracie’s transplant. I haven’t felt this much emotion from a book in a long time. Thank you, Heather, for sharing your family’s very personal story and thanks to publisher Henry Holt & Sons for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tanja Berg

    "We understand that nothing given is permanent. Not wealth or well-being, not sweet dreams or morning coffee. Not a daughter or a son, a husband, lover, friend, mother. Anything, everything, is up for grabs, can fly back from whence it came." I have made an active choice not to have children. I am long past changing my mind, and still this book nearly convinced me that I am missing out on something I might regret. This despite the fact that the story is about how the author had a very sick baby g "We understand that nothing given is permanent. Not wealth or well-being, not sweet dreams or morning coffee. Not a daughter or a son, a husband, lover, friend, mother. Anything, everything, is up for grabs, can fly back from whence it came." I have made an active choice not to have children. I am long past changing my mind, and still this book nearly convinced me that I am missing out on something I might regret. This despite the fact that the story is about how the author had a very sick baby girl on her own. Her boyfriend didn't want to accept his role as father, so they broke up when Heather found out she was pregnant. A few months after her birth, Gracie's father Brian does return to the picture to become a very doting father. "I pictured Brian as Captain Kirk from Star Trek. It felt as if he was returning via transporter, from a long journey, rematerializing in our lives, particle by particle." Gracie herself is a plucky child, full of humor and insight. She was born with a mysterious blood disease that caused the red platelets in her blood to disintegrate, meaning regular transfusions were necessary. Regular blood transfusion lead to a build up of iron, that tends to be fatal in the long run. The book describes Heather and Brian's struggle in deciding what is best for their child. "Lifesaving medical care is the kind of thing you buy whether you can afford it or not. And so we prepared to go disastrously broke." This is an insightful, heartwarming and wrenching tale from real life. It's full of humor, despite the theme of dangerously ill child. I am so glad I saw it on Reese'sBookClubxHelloSunshine instagram page, it's unlikely I would have found my way to it otherwise. Highly recommended!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Evelina | AvalinahsBooks

    ★★★★✬ 4.5 stars Happiness isn't a book about how you would actually attain happiness. It's not even about happiness, so much. In fact, if you started reading it, it probably wouldn't seem at all happy, at the start, at least. The funny thing about this book: you know it ends well. But while you're reading it, it shatters your heart. But the thing is: ultimately, it teaches you to find happiness with what you're given. Cause it's just so easy to take it all for granted. Simply put, this book ★★★★✬ 4.5 stars Happiness isn't a book about how you would actually attain happiness. It's not even about happiness, so much. In fact, if you started reading it, it probably wouldn't seem at all happy, at the start, at least. The funny thing about this book: you know it ends well. But while you're reading it, it shatters your heart. But the thing is: ultimately, it teaches you to find happiness with what you're given. Cause it's just so easy to take it all for granted. Simply put, this book gives some good perspective. This is a memoir that talks about a particular period of the author's life – an unexpected joy, but also the unexpected blow of finding out about being pregnant, being abandoned by her lover because of it and ultimately giving birth to a mysteriously, yet dangerously ill child. And then fighting to keep the child alive despite any and all odds. It's gripping, it's sobering and it's very touching. All you have as an assurance is that you know it ends well, but it doesn't ruin the suspense. You must know how it happens. This book is beautiful, it has wonderful, poetic writing – and so much love, spilling from the heart of the author – for her baby. But it's also incredibly sad, you could even say bittersweet, to see the child be so ill, although you know it's going to end well. One could almost think Heather's daughter's sickness is in part due to the disappointment of feeling being unloved by her father, even though there is no way she could have realized any of that when she was just several days old. But it seems so symbolic, and this drama of real life is just as huge as any fictional story you could come up with. The father ends up changing his mind, coming back to the family and being a loving dad eventually (this isn't even a spoiler), but the damage seems to be done. All of these points present ideas about how new parents are tried and tested, how many problems they have to solve – for some harder than others. It chews on the fact of what it means to be a mother or a father, what you ultimately want for your children. And how simple those things can sometimes be. Like another day breathing. I guess the name Happiness is the best name you could come up with for this book, because it makes you feel how flawed is our way of imagining happiness. Happiness never lasts – it's never a state. It's a fleeting moment, it's an idea. The book teaches you to see how important it is to value what you have now, and how little can be needed to actually make you happy, given the right (or the wrong – depends on the view) circumstances. To be honest, the only thing that hindered my enjoyment of the book at times – how I couldn't get over the fact that Heather's husband eventually got his stuff together and figured out where he should be. I just kept seething during the entire book about how you can be such a ... and do this to your family. Yet, the way both parents fight to sustain the child's life is nothing short of inspiring. Even if it takes time to understand where you should be. It's not an easy book to stomach, especially if you're very sensitive, or just queasy about medical issues. At one point, it details the life in a bone marrow transplant unit for kids, and it's not a short period of time either. If you can't handle this kind of stuff, the book is not for you. But it has so many important take aways, and it's also so incredibly touching, that I think it's definitely worth the read. Heather urges to sign up for BeTheMatch.org and save someone's life. Not everyone can have a relative for a donor! I thank the publisher for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange to my honest opinion. Read Post On My Blog | My Bookstagram | Bookish Twitter

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Thanks to the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, via Shelf Awareness, for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. What a good book! I must confess that I am not a big memoir reader. It isn't a genre that I normally pick up on my own unless prompted by a friend or, in this case, give a review copy. I am very glad I gave this book a chance! It is such an honest look at relationships, love, parenting, illness. The humble admissions that we are not all ready or willing to be come parents, but that Thanks to the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, via Shelf Awareness, for an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. What a good book! I must confess that I am not a big memoir reader. It isn't a genre that I normally pick up on my own unless prompted by a friend or, in this case, give a review copy. I am very glad I gave this book a chance! It is such an honest look at relationships, love, parenting, illness. The humble admissions that we are not all ready or willing to be come parents, but that we do the best we can and learn as we go. That relationships take many turns, and are never a work complete, but always a work in progress. That we learn just as much from our children about how to be brave and face our fears than they will ever learn from us. Great book!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Obsidian

    I always say that it's hard to write a very good short story or a memoir that draws you in. Unfortunately I was not engaged at all while reading this. Instead I found myself getting bored and just rushing through chapters. Harpham's memoir doesn't cause me to feel a thing which is weird considering the subject matter (her newborn daughter is born with a fatal disease) but maybe that is due to her obsessing over the relationship with her ex, then boyfriend, and eventual husband. I think the writin I always say that it's hard to write a very good short story or a memoir that draws you in. Unfortunately I was not engaged at all while reading this. Instead I found myself getting bored and just rushing through chapters. Harpham's memoir doesn't cause me to feel a thing which is weird considering the subject matter (her newborn daughter is born with a fatal disease) but maybe that is due to her obsessing over the relationship with her ex, then boyfriend, and eventual husband. I think the writing was trying too hard. In the right hands I think this memoir could have been really good. Instead I shook my head over Harpham talking about how she wrote Fiona Apple lyrics down when professing her love to the man she's dating. Maybe that's why I didn't like this book, I felt like I was reading a diary of someone who is in their teens throughout this. The flow is off as well. We go back and forth between destinations and treatments for her daughter. Eventually we find out what happened to everyone (all is well) and I just ended feeling dissatisfied when I got to the end.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diane Yannick

    Thank you Heather Harpham for spending 5 years to get this book right. Tough to write but finely crafted throughout. I came close to carrying my Kindle into the shower because I was so absorbed in Gracie's journey. The humorous touches made it all bearable. Even I rooted for Brian throughout. Although he wasn't there in the beginning, once he committed he never wavered. For not wanting to be a Daddy, he had some mad skills. Heather put her own shortcomings on full display. She was totally enmeshe Thank you Heather Harpham for spending 5 years to get this book right. Tough to write but finely crafted throughout. I came close to carrying my Kindle into the shower because I was so absorbed in Gracie's journey. The humorous touches made it all bearable. Even I rooted for Brian throughout. Although he wasn't there in the beginning, once he committed he never wavered. For not wanting to be a Daddy, he had some mad skills. Heather put her own shortcomings on full display. She was totally enmeshed in Gracie's world and unable to lean on a husband who was ready and willing to be leaned on. Using Gracie and Gabriel's own words to flesh them out for the readers was perfect. She was a master at showing us rather than telling us. The village that surrounded this family was paid the highest of tributes. I'm certain this book feels like a gift to them. Some diseases are simply undiagnosable regardless of how many specialists weigh in. A trusted doctor said, "We don't know what is broken, but if we take out the old engine and replace it with a new engine, the car will run." Replacing that engine led to a bone marrow transplant---a scary solution for anyone, especially a young child. Brian encourages "growth choices" and is often not a fan of Heather's need to tell Gracie more than she can grasp. I was not a huge fan of the title and pretended that the subtitle was the main title. However, happiness was an elusive theme. "When did happiness become the one golden ring we reach for? How about being guided by what is right or ethical or meaningful?" I totally agree that happiness is "something we trip over on our way somewhere else." I'm guessing that Heather would agree with David Eggers comment that writing "spreads weight over a larger area." As a reader I have felt the weight and celebrated this imperfect family. One final note--I'm glad you let Gabriel wear his bee boots to bed🐝

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Happiness: A Memoir‘s has the most delicious subtitle. It’s “The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After Happiness.” That alone is a good reason to read the book. About fifteen years ago, Heather Harpham was madly in love with Brian Morton. They were opposites in many ways: he was the planner to her spontaneous free spirit; he was rigid and ritualized while she was mercurial and chaotic; a writer, he lived the life of the mind while a dance, she lived the life of the body. More importantly, she w Happiness: A Memoir‘s has the most delicious subtitle. It’s “The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After Happiness.” That alone is a good reason to read the book. About fifteen years ago, Heather Harpham was madly in love with Brian Morton. They were opposites in many ways: he was the planner to her spontaneous free spirit; he was rigid and ritualized while she was mercurial and chaotic; a writer, he lived the life of the mind while a dance, she lived the life of the body. More importantly, she wanted children and he absolutely did not want to be a father. So when, Surprise!, she learned she was pregnant, he dumped her though “more in sorrow than in anger.” She moves back home to California and delivers a beautiful little girl whose blood shed red blood cells for inexplicable reasons. And so begins a long journey into the world of parenting a sick child. She keeps her asshole ex apprised of the birth, the illness, and he’s actually interested in coming out to meet his daughter, Gracie, and talk to the doctors. He leaves the kingdom of assholes and is enchanted by his daughter, engaged in the struggle to diagnose and, they hope, cure her. They reach for each other again, coming together as a family to be present for their daughter.And so begins the epic quest for answers and solutions that is told in this memoir that is so much more than a disease memoir. Children who are born with an illness do not really know that there’s an alternative. They accept with equanimity what those of us who are healthy cannot comprehend. But even with the habituation from birth to being poked and prodded, Gracie is a remarkable child with vibrant curiosity and a charming sense of humor. She’s smart and incredibly centered. She is the breath and air that give this story life. If you don’t fall in love with her, I am going to have serious doubts about you. But what makes this a particularly effective memoir is the hard-edged honesty that Harpham turns on herself and her partner Brian. Wielding self-reflection and truth-seeking like a scalpel, she pares back all the normal protective layers, exposing her anger, her selfishness, her pettiness. She does not try to make herself noble, because this is a memoir about actually finding happiness, not projecting its facade. I had planned to dip in and out of this book while reading the stack of fiction on my Kindle. I figured I would read it over the course of a week or so. I generally read nonfiction slowly. But, I started it in the morning and finished it the same day. I had things to do that did not get done. I read it straight through, smiling, crying, and laughing my way through. Yes, it’s a memoir about happiness. It’s sometimes true that happiness finds you, despite the odds. Happiness: A Memoir will be released on August 1st. I received an ARC from the publisher through a drawing via Shelf Awareness. https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Misty Moseley-Helber

    Nothing profound or memorable here. I grew annoyed with the author/mother and her terrible decision-making skills paired with her entitled selfishness. I couldn't help but feel like she forced the never-wanted-to-be-father's hand and got what she wanted no matter what the cost was to others. Nothing profound or memorable here. I grew annoyed with the author/mother and her terrible decision-making skills paired with her entitled selfishness. I couldn't help but feel like she forced the never-wanted-to-be-father's hand and got what she wanted no matter what the cost was to others.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tania

    Losing a child makes time reverse direction, flow backward. To survive loss on that scale, I imagine you have to become someone you make up, whole cloth, to impersonate you, for the rest of your life. At the beginning of 2018 I made a decision to read more memoirs, and I'm so very glad I decided to add this one to the list. As the author is a writer the story is beautifully written, but more than that she feels like one of those "open" people you meet every now and again. She shares her experienc Losing a child makes time reverse direction, flow backward. To survive loss on that scale, I imagine you have to become someone you make up, whole cloth, to impersonate you, for the rest of your life. At the beginning of 2018 I made a decision to read more memoirs, and I'm so very glad I decided to add this one to the list. As the author is a writer the story is beautifully written, but more than that she feels like one of those "open" people you meet every now and again. She shares her experiences and her actions, the good and the bad, as is, with no filters or justifications. This memoir overflows with love and caring, as well as many moments of humor. The author is self-aware and well-balanced, someone I would love to have as a friend. I highly recommend this to anyone who has kids, or enjoys memoirs. The story: Heather Harpham's newborn, Gracie, had a blood disorder that required her to get transfusions every few weeks because her bone marrow couldn’t make red blood cells; doctors told her that without a marrow transplant, her daughter wouldn’t live past age 30. Happiness looks at the decisions they had to make in this journey and how it affected their family.

  10. 4 out of 5

    La La

    I was really enjoying this story. The author's writing style was ideal for a memoir. It read like Literary Fiction and I loved that, but her entitled upper middle class clulelessness showed through too many times, and I found the last third of the story difficult to connect with; especially as a struggling single mother with a seriously ill child in previous years. I was approved for an eARC, via Netgalley, in return for an honest review. I will not be reviewing this title on the blog because it I was really enjoying this story. The author's writing style was ideal for a memoir. It read like Literary Fiction and I loved that, but her entitled upper middle class clulelessness showed through too many times, and I found the last third of the story difficult to connect with; especially as a struggling single mother with a seriously ill child in previous years. I was approved for an eARC, via Netgalley, in return for an honest review. I will not be reviewing this title on the blog because it is less than four stars.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Linda Zagon

    I would like to thank Henry,Holt and Company, BookBrowse, And Heather Harpham for the Advanced Reading Edition of "Happiness The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After" A Memoir by Heather Harpham for my honest review. The genres of this novel are Memoir and Non-fiction. Kudos to Heather Harpham for retelling her story in such a captivating and intriguing way. The author does an amazing job in describing all the people in her life. It was refreshing to see the author's honesty. I feel that it was I would like to thank Henry,Holt and Company, BookBrowse, And Heather Harpham for the Advanced Reading Edition of "Happiness The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After" A Memoir by Heather Harpham for my honest review. The genres of this novel are Memoir and Non-fiction. Kudos to Heather Harpham for retelling her story in such a captivating and intriguing way. The author does an amazing job in describing all the people in her life. It was refreshing to see the author's honesty. I feel that it was brave and courageous for the author to share her emotional journey. The author describes her relationship with the man she falls in love with. They are totally opposite in many ways. When she gets pregnant, I quote , "If I wanted to have children with anyone, it would be with you." He doesn't want children but he does help her financially. Heather returns to her original home in California and is determined to be a single Mom. She is very alone and frightened, but does have the support of her Mother, family and good friends. Heather gives birth to a little girl. Unfortunately, the baby has a condition that requires transfusions and medical intervention. Heather does keep Brian, the father aware of what is going on from afar. I like the way Heather discusses the importance of family, friends, and support. Heather meets many people on her journey, who show the importance of love, faith and hope. The author also describes all the emotions that she is forced to face in a positive way. I would recommend this as a well written, informative and intriguing memoir of love, family, life and hope.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Donna Merritt

    As a parent, reading a true story about a child born seriously ill is not easy. I'm glad I read this one, though. It was honest, sad, even funny at times. It reveals how a terrifying experience like this affects the entire family, including the relationship and romance between the parents. I rooted for this family all the way through. You will, too. Note: There were some inconsistencies and typos, but I received an advance reader's copy, so I trust the corrections were made before the first print As a parent, reading a true story about a child born seriously ill is not easy. I'm glad I read this one, though. It was honest, sad, even funny at times. It reveals how a terrifying experience like this affects the entire family, including the relationship and romance between the parents. I rooted for this family all the way through. You will, too. Note: There were some inconsistencies and typos, but I received an advance reader's copy, so I trust the corrections were made before the first print run.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I thought this memoir was good, not great, which is why I'm giving it a 3.5 but rounding up to 4 stars on Goodreads. What Heather Harpham went through with her daughter's health trauma is something I wouldn't wish upon anybody. How horrific to have to live years and years of surviving day by day, hoping and praying that this day is not your child's last. That she doesn't come upon some unseen germ that will end her life. Just the tiniest things could change the path of her life and that is just I thought this memoir was good, not great, which is why I'm giving it a 3.5 but rounding up to 4 stars on Goodreads. What Heather Harpham went through with her daughter's health trauma is something I wouldn't wish upon anybody. How horrific to have to live years and years of surviving day by day, hoping and praying that this day is not your child's last. That she doesn't come upon some unseen germ that will end her life. Just the tiniest things could change the path of her life and that is just about the most frightening thing I can imagine a mother to have to go through. It puts me off wanting to have kids at all, knowing the terrible things they can be subjected to at no fault of your own. How can you keep a child safe in this world? How can you can protect them against something like bad blood? I can't fathom it. I have endless respect for the strength of the author and her children. What kept me from really loving this story was the writing style; that is, not the story itself. Somehow, even though I don't doubt all of this to have been true and Ms. Harpham makes clear in the beginning that the story she tells is based off of her memory, which is not perfect, I just didn't really...believe all of it. Not the major parts, of course I believe that her daughter went through a nightmare that no child, or human, for that matter, should have to go through. It's just some of the things that were said. You'll find this to be a pattern of mine. I am very, very, very adamant that the language used is realistic. It makes my skin crawl and my eyes roll when authors use words or phrases that just aren't true to life, or true to the age of the character or person in the story. Just see my last review, I had a similar complaint. I'm very consistent in this manner. All this being said, I felt that the author may have taken a few too many liberties with the profound, deep, thoughtful things her two children frequently said, both under the age of five. I am aware that children say the darndest things, that they can sound philosophical without meaning it, but just how often? How often until it no longer feels genuine and feels instead like a baby Gandhi or baby Mother Theresa is speaking? I'm not calling Ms. Harpham a liar, by no means. Memory can be a fickle thing. Her daughter is now in her teen years and Gracie was sick as a child, so certainly there are things and sayings and actions and phrases that slipped through the cracks and were forgotten over the many years. We remember things how we want to. We remember things how we need to. This is human nature. With that in mind, to me, Ms. Harpham made Gracie sounded like a mini-prophet, almost always. I didn't buy it. Too cheesy for me. That was my biggest problem with it, and again, the author appropriately addresses the fact that she relies on her memory for this memoir and that memory is not infallible. So, fair play. Thank you to the author and the publishers for the opportunity to read this book in advance.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    This is probably the best contemporary memoir I have ever read. It is the story of Heather, an actor and playwright, her partner Brian, but most of all their children, Gracie and Gabe, and the life-or-death bone marrow transplant that Gracie needs to survive. Gracie was born with a rare blood disorder, and while she could have survived several years with constant transfusions, the only lasting hope was a bone marrow transplant. When Gabe is born, his blood is a close match to hers, and he doesn't This is probably the best contemporary memoir I have ever read. It is the story of Heather, an actor and playwright, her partner Brian, but most of all their children, Gracie and Gabe, and the life-or-death bone marrow transplant that Gracie needs to survive. Gracie was born with a rare blood disorder, and while she could have survived several years with constant transfusions, the only lasting hope was a bone marrow transplant. When Gabe is born, his blood is a close match to hers, and he doesn't have the disorder, and so his cord blood is saved for the eventual day when Heather and Brian decide -- with much trepidation -- to go forward with the transplant at Duke University. Along the way, the parents have their own issues to work out. Brian, a professor and writer, did not want a child. As a result, Heather spent her pregnancy near her home in northern California, aching for Brian but believing she would be a single mom. Brian eventually comes to see Gracie, and falls in love with her. And Gracie, like every child, is so lovable. She dotes on her My Little Ponies, and lives her real and dream life through them. She falls in love with the movie Spirit, about wild horses, and when it comes on in her umpteenth viewing of it, she always exclaims, "They chase!. They chase!" When Gabe comes along, he brings with him exuberance, a love of his yellow bee boots, which he insists on wearing to bed, and his idolization of his sister "Yacie." Heather's description of the long weeks at Duke, the shared bonds among transplant families, the terror, love, longing, and hope during the marrow-destroying chemo, then seeing if Gracie's liver will survive the procedure, then seeing if Gabe's cells will engraft to produce new red blood cells for her, is told with great detail, sensitivity and grace. I won't give away the ending of this story, but I can say that for me -- someone who spent much of his career writing about medical and science topics -- the deeper value of this story is the sheer beauty of Heather's prose, her wonderful analogies, her deft touch at describing emotions both ecstatic and painful. I just finished looking through the New York Times 100 notable books of 2017, and I am simply gobsmacked that this memoir is not on the list. Whatever I can do in my small way to promote this book I will do. Read it, please.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    What a beautiful book! Heather Harpham's first child, Gracie, was born with a life-threatening blood disease. To keep her alive, every few weeks she must return to the hospital for a transfusion. It is so much a way of life for Gracie that she believes it is something that everyone has to do when they are young. But then they learn that a bone marrow transplant can rid her of the disease. The only problem is that the cure is also life-threatening. At its core, the story is about relationships an What a beautiful book! Heather Harpham's first child, Gracie, was born with a life-threatening blood disease. To keep her alive, every few weeks she must return to the hospital for a transfusion. It is so much a way of life for Gracie that she believes it is something that everyone has to do when they are young. But then they learn that a bone marrow transplant can rid her of the disease. The only problem is that the cure is also life-threatening. At its core, the story is about relationships and hope and fear and heart. Her writing is so full of heart. Thank you to Henry Holt & Co. for an ARC of this book, which I received from BookBrowse.com.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    It's not often a book makes me cry but this one got me - multiple times. It's not often a book makes me cry but this one got me - multiple times.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Saleh MoonWalker

    Onvan : Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After - Nevisande : Heather Harpham - ISBN : 1250131561 - ISBN13 : 9781250131560 - Dar 320 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2017

  18. 4 out of 5

    Camie

    From personal experience I know that having a chronically or terminal ill child changes your life. Not only in terms of who you are but in your entire world view. At times the mere fact that the world continues spinning or that someone's main concern today may be what to fix for dinner is unfathomable. It can also change your focus from keeping up with the broad bustling world to one where each day you are given becomes a gift; something to remember. In Harpham's memoir she experiences all of th From personal experience I know that having a chronically or terminal ill child changes your life. Not only in terms of who you are but in your entire world view. At times the mere fact that the world continues spinning or that someone's main concern today may be what to fix for dinner is unfathomable. It can also change your focus from keeping up with the broad bustling world to one where each day you are given becomes a gift; something to remember. In Harpham's memoir she experiences all of these things and deftly sets them before us to ponder, as she and her family go through the life threatening journey of her daughter Gracie's blood disorder discovered in infancy. There are also interesting moral and ethical problems involved in the heart wrenching and poignant story which she tells. Not all of the reviewers agree, but I think she has written a brave and truthful book that allows us to see how difficult trying to keep various aspects of your life together when you're drowning in despair and feel you're the primary one left " holding the rope.” 5 stars - last book of 2018 (#91)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey Gandhi

    3.5 rating. This memoir is good. For me it wasn't great, but it was good and it will pull at your heart strings. I am rounding up my rating because of the sensitive matter she wrote about, and like I said the book was good (no fireworks or explosions going off...). I want to give the author a lot of credit for sharing her story. First and foremost it cannot be easy to have a child with a disease that may kill them, to watch your child be in pain or suffer and then let's peel this onion back one 3.5 rating. This memoir is good. For me it wasn't great, but it was good and it will pull at your heart strings. I am rounding up my rating because of the sensitive matter she wrote about, and like I said the book was good (no fireworks or explosions going off...). I want to give the author a lot of credit for sharing her story. First and foremost it cannot be easy to have a child with a disease that may kill them, to watch your child be in pain or suffer and then let's peel this onion back one more layer and have to make a life altering decision for your child. In no universe is that easy, and I will not be disrespectful by saying I know how she felt or how I would have responded if that had been my child. It takes a lot of bravery to be that parent in that situation, trying your best to make the best decisions to keep your child alive. And it takes even more bravery to turn around and write about it where the whole world can question your parenting skills and decisions. One aspect of this book that I thought was quite beautiful was how Gracie completely changed Brian's life and heart. This was a glowing example of the change children can inspire. I'm sure for the author this was just part of the overall story, the journey and I don't know if she meant it to be that shining example the way it was for me. Either way it's a beautiful part of the storyline. It was just a good book, I don't feel this is one I would recommend to others as a must read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Peg

    Thanks to the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, via LibraryThing, for an ARC of the memoir in exchange for my honest opinion. I didn't know what to expect from this memoir. I got a wonderful surprise! It's both heartwarming and heart-wrenching to read the author's moving story starting with the birth of her daughter, Gracie. Heather Harpham writes so lyrically that I was fascinated throughout most of this memoir. Gracie was born with a rare blood disorder and Heather was devastated just like any Thanks to the publisher, Henry Holt and Company, via LibraryThing, for an ARC of the memoir in exchange for my honest opinion. I didn't know what to expect from this memoir. I got a wonderful surprise! It's both heartwarming and heart-wrenching to read the author's moving story starting with the birth of her daughter, Gracie. Heather Harpham writes so lyrically that I was fascinated throughout most of this memoir. Gracie was born with a rare blood disorder and Heather was devastated just like any new mother would be. Gracie's father, Brian, loved Heather but didn't want children and even though Heather had the support of family and friends, she felt alone in her struggle. Eventually the father gets back into the family but the health of their daughter consumes them because of the severity of the disorder. It's a complex love story between Heather and Brian and I wanted them to work things out for Gracie's sake. I learned a lot about blood disorders, bone marrow transplants, and how parents must learn to deal with daily life not knowing how long their child might live. Ms. Harpham injects humor and lovely memories as she recalls Gracie's ordeals. I found myself routing for Gracie and the other children suffering from similar illnesses. This is truly an extraordinary memoir written by a compassionate mother and author.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Carolw

    “We understand that nothing given is permanent. Not wealth or well-being, not sweet dreams or morning coffee. Not a daughter or a son, a husband, lover, friend, mother. Anything, everything, is up for grabs, can fly back from whence it came.” This book is not a “how to” guide to happiness, it is much much more than that. It is the author’s story of having a seriously ill child, struggles and joys, humor and sorrow. Making life changing decisions in relation to that child with her partner and with “We understand that nothing given is permanent. Not wealth or well-being, not sweet dreams or morning coffee. Not a daughter or a son, a husband, lover, friend, mother. Anything, everything, is up for grabs, can fly back from whence it came.” This book is not a “how to” guide to happiness, it is much much more than that. It is the author’s story of having a seriously ill child, struggles and joys, humor and sorrow. Making life changing decisions in relation to that child with her partner and without him. How a sick child changes your relationships. This is not a bleak, gloomy, dismal book about a sick child. It is a beautifully written account of the author’s remarkable journey through all of this.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Blythe

    This was a book I wanted to love but struggled through page after page. I struggled to connect with Heather and her perspective. I even struggled to connect with Gracie as she battled for her life. Yet I kept trying, page after page. And then near the end, I finally realized why: Heather isn’t introspective. This memoir tells the facts of her family’s story and her feelings throughout, but reading it, I didn’t encounter Heather trying to understand those around her, much less herself. At the end This was a book I wanted to love but struggled through page after page. I struggled to connect with Heather and her perspective. I even struggled to connect with Gracie as she battled for her life. Yet I kept trying, page after page. And then near the end, I finally realized why: Heather isn’t introspective. This memoir tells the facts of her family’s story and her feelings throughout, but reading it, I didn’t encounter Heather trying to understand those around her, much less herself. At the end, after alllll they’ve gone through, Heather seems the same. She doesn’t seem to have grown emotionally at all. She doesn’t seem to have grown as a mother or a partner. I can’t believe that is actually the case in real life, but the absence of any record of maturing makes the book fall flat. I wanted to be convinced that more happens during a hard journey than the journey itself. I wanted to hear about the beauty and grace Heather experienced, the ways she was personally challenged and extended, the delights of finding deeper meaning in the midst of suffering. There was none of that, and it makes the suffering feel wasted. I don’t know. People love this book and I wanted to, too. Maybe it’s just me. 🤷‍♀️

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lins

    I highly recommend "Happiness", a memoir by Heather Harpham. The writing is absolutely wonderful; when you say someone has "a way with words" or "can really turn a phrase" - that's Heather Harpham for sure; it's no surprise as she's also a playwright and performer. "Happiness" recounts Harpham's experience as an unwed mother of a fragile infant with a rare blood disease, and the love story surrounding the family that she creates. I don't want to give anything away so that the reader can embark on I highly recommend "Happiness", a memoir by Heather Harpham. The writing is absolutely wonderful; when you say someone has "a way with words" or "can really turn a phrase" - that's Heather Harpham for sure; it's no surprise as she's also a playwright and performer. "Happiness" recounts Harpham's experience as an unwed mother of a fragile infant with a rare blood disease, and the love story surrounding the family that she creates. I don't want to give anything away so that the reader can embark on this riveting adventure along with Heather. She's unflinching in her self-assessments, witty, and insightful. From the first pages to the end I wanted to have Heather as a friend.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tucker (TuckerTheReader)

    Many thanks to Henry Holt and Company for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review | Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram Many thanks to Henry Holt and Company for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review | Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rhonda Lomazow

    A beautiful lovely memoir.Heather holds nothing back from her surprise pregnancy Her boyfriends decision not to be involved.The birth of her daughter who is born with a health problem. The return of the baby's dad the life they form the reality of the baby's more& more serious disease.An at times heart wrenching memoir you will never forget.Thanks to @henryholt for sending me an arc of this memoir. A beautiful lovely memoir.Heather holds nothing back from her surprise pregnancy Her boyfriends decision not to be involved.The birth of her daughter who is born with a health problem. The return of the baby's dad the life they form the reality of the baby's more& more serious disease.An at times heart wrenching memoir you will never forget.Thanks to @henryholt for sending me an arc of this memoir.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kate Olson

    Absolutely wonderful motherhood memoir of the experience of having a child with a potentially fatal illness - it broke my heart but ultimately put it back together again and was told with the perfect mix of analysis and account of events as they happened years earlier. I listened to this book from Audible and the narration at 1.25x speed was just perfect - I highly recommend experiencing this story via audio.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    The beginning of this book was just wonderful. I loved the author's recounting of her relationship with Brian. And the story of her daughter's illness was interesting. But I found myself skimming over page after page of countless medical procedures and cute things that Gracie said. The beginning of this book was just wonderful. I loved the author's recounting of her relationship with Brian. And the story of her daughter's illness was interesting. But I found myself skimming over page after page of countless medical procedures and cute things that Gracie said.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jodi Kauble

    I put off this book and only read it because it was picked for the Reece Witherspoon book club. But I have to say that it was fantastic.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    LOVED this book! A beautiful yet tragic true story of sickness, family, and parenthood. I really enjoyed this book! The way the author told the story was flawless and descriptive without dragging on. I would recommend this book to parents and non-parents alike! It really makes you think “what if” and how you might deal with a situation like the one told in the book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    3.5 stars I ended up loving Harpham’s narration of the audio book even though her voice grated me at the beginning. It grew on me and gave her humour and sarcasm life. Happiness, this book teaches us, is all about perspective and love. It deals with heartbreak and sick children, getting through life day by day and step by step, but always stopping to appreciate what you've got. 3.5 stars I ended up loving Harpham’s narration of the audio book even though her voice grated me at the beginning. It grew on me and gave her humour and sarcasm life. Happiness, this book teaches us, is all about perspective and love. It deals with heartbreak and sick children, getting through life day by day and step by step, but always stopping to appreciate what you've got.

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