Fabulous Fiction Firsts #312

Seré Prince Halverson's debut novel - The Underside of Joy quietly and immediately draws the reader in with : “For three years, I did back flips in the deep end of happiness. The joy was palpable and often loud. Other times it softened..... I also know now, years later, something else: The most genuine happiness cannot be so pure, so deep, and so blind."

Ella Beene's back flips in happiness are named Joe, Annie and Zach. She met Joe as she stopped at Elbow, a small, funky town along the Redwoods River in North California and never left, becoming stepmother to Joe's children when they married. When Joe died, Ella's grief was compounded with Paige, the children's biological mother showing up at the funeral.

As a bitter custody battle raged between the two women, long-buried secrets which Joe took great pains to hide from Ella came to light. Joe's once close-knit Italian-American family initially supportive, took sides, leaving Ella feeling abandoned.

"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."

'A poignant debut about mothers, secrets and sacrifices. "

Readers who enjoyed Jacquelyn Mitchard's A Theory of Relativity (2001); Marisa De Los Santo's Love Walked In (2006) and Belong to Me (2008); and Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You (2011) will find much to like with this debut novel.