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March 2018 Fiction: Literary

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Happiness
A Novel
By (author): Aminatta Forna
9780802127556 Hardcover, Cloth over boards English General Trade FICTION / Literary Mar 06, 2018
$38.95 CAD
Active 5.5 x 8.25 x 1.14 in 368 pages Grove/Atlantic Atlantic Monthly Press

“ThroughoutHappiness, Forna stops in our tracks . . . Reminiscent at times of Michael Ondaatje’s novelAnil’s Ghost . . .Happiness is a meditation on grand themes: Love and death, man and nature, cruelty and mercy. But Forna folds this weighty matter into her buoyant creation with a sublimely delicate touch.”—Washington Post

London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide—Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech. From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna’s unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments of connection.

Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his “niece” who hasn’t called home in a while. Ama has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.

When, by chance, Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the network of rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens—mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London—come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds.

Meanwhile a consulting case causes Attila to question the impact of his own ideas on trauma, the values of the society he finds himself in, and a grief of his own. In this delicate tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, Forna asks us to consider the interconnectedness of lives, our co-existence with one another and all living creatures, and the true nature of happiness.

Aminatta Forna is the author of the novelsAncestor Stones,The Memory of Love, andThe Hired Man, as well as the memoirThe Devil That Danced on the Water. Forna's books have been translated into sixteen languages. Her essays have appeared inGranta,The Guardian,The Observer, andVogue. She is currently the Lannan Visiting Chair of Poetics at Georgetown University.

Praise forHappiness:

“Forna’s fourth novel, Happiness, is a comprehensive tale of love, prejudicial conflict, coexistence between man and nature, and the success we invite when we embrace good and bad experiences . . . Forna ultimately implores readers to understand complexities of any people and to accept coexistence — be it with various cultures or internally — as we learn to live with our experiences, good and bad.”Los Angeles Review of Books

“Forna isn’t in the business of offering cheap comfort . . . In the richness of its urban portrait and the nuance of its narrative,Happiness makes clear that life is always complex and kindness not a cure-all. This is a book about humanity’s glorious, irreducible mess; a book filled with grief, largesse and joy. It is not about escapism, or about making us feel good; rather it’s about making us feel everything.”Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Arresting . . . ThroughoutHappiness, Forna stops in our tracks . . . Reminiscent at times of Michael Ondaatje’s novelAnil’s Ghost. . .Happiness is a meditation on grand themes: Love and death, man and nature, cruelty and mercy. But Forna folds this weighty matter into her buoyant creation with a sublimely delicate touch.” —Washington Post

“Finely structured . . . [Happiness] powerfully succeeds on an intimate level.”New York Times Editors’ Choice

“Aminatta Forna expertly weaves her characters’ stories, past and present, in and out of the larger story of London, which becomes as rich a character as the human beings and, indeed, the foxes; and she makes us care deeply about them all, the foxes, the people and the city. A terrific novel.” —Salman Rushdie, author ofThe Golden House

“Profound and convincing . . . Forna’s voice is relentlessly compelling, her ability to summon atmosphere extraordinary, her sympathetic portrayal of traffic wardens, street performers, security guards, hotel doormen a thing of lasting beauty. . . a vision of [London] so vivid and multilayered that it becomes the novel’s central figure.”Observer (UK)

“From the understated and inexorable pull of plot and emotion to the luxuriousness of the details of varied ways of living and being to the tidal pull of language,Happiness is a great accomplishment.” —Viet Thanh Nguyen, author ofThe Sympathizer and The Refugees

“WithHappiness, [Forna] pulls it off again . . . It is testament to Forna that none of this feels heavy. She has a deft touch and a warm style . . .Happiness is full of elegantly-written passages that you will want to revisit to make sense of changing circumstances in an increasingly tumultuous world.”Evening Standard (UK)

“Mesmerizing . . .Happiness is one of a handful of contemporary novels that take both the human condition and the animal condition seriously. Entering Forna’s sweeping universe transports you to a place that feels familiar, but also totally feral and full of surprises.”—Financial Times (UK)

“Absorbing . . . Forna’s prose is precise and often stunning in its clarity . . . [Happiness] burns brightly when it matters most.”—Seattle Times

“[A] piercingly intelligent and interrogative novel . . . [Happiness] registers tectonic shifts taking place in the world and provokes us to think anew about war, and what we take for peace and happiness.”The Spectator (UK)

“A tightly focused two-hander . . .Happiness starts out as a novel about coincidence—chance encounters, twists of fate—and turns into one about coexistence: how to overcome intolerance, accept differences and live in harmony . . . A subtle, considered yet deeply resonant tale, one which sensitively and intelligently highlights connection over division and kindness over cruelty.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Piercingly empathetic, Forna’s latest explores instinct, resilience, and the complexity of human coexistence, reaffirming her reputation for exceptional ability and perspective.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Forna’s novel is unusual and engaging, heartfelt and ambitiously crafted.”Shelf Awareness

“A symphony on coexistence between partners in a marriage, between groups in a city, between strangers and old loves, and between a person and their memories, their past selves.”—THE Magazine

“The overarching message tucked into Scottish and Sierra Leonian writer Forna’s quietly resonant novel is this: Every living thing is the net sum of its history, and we carry the weight of our past on our shoulders . . . Intricately woven . . . Forna’s novel is ultimately a mesmerizing tale studded with exquisite writing” —Booklist (starred review)

“Aminatta Forna has crafted a complex and deeply human story. African in its worldview of convergence and simultaneity, yet universal in its range of possibility and choice. Nuanced and delightful, this story takes place inside the reader’s own nostalgia. Gorgeous.” —Chris Abani, author ofThe Secret History of Las Vegas

Happiness is one of the best novels I’ve read in quite a while—intelligent, deep, and poignant. It sheds smooth, unflinching light upon the unseen. Forna is at the top of her game.” ——Rabih Alameddine, author ofThe Angel of History andAn Unnecessary Woman

Happiness is a deeply moving novel about love, trauma, and the ties that bind us together. Beautifully written and ingeniously allegorical. Aminatta Forna is a writer of phenomenal talent, with a clear eye, a fearless voice, and an extraordinary range.”—Laila Lalami, author ofThe Moor’s Account

“Piercingly empathetic, Forna’s latest explores instinct, resilience, and the complexity of human coexistence, reaffirming her reputation for exceptional ability and perspective.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Elegant . . . Potent and immersive . . . Forna’s gift for characterization allows her to ask genuine, practical questions about the delicate problems of the human condition in this ambitious novel.” —Publishers Weekly

“It is a novel that carries a tremendous sense of the world, where I looked up upon finishing and sensed a shift in what I thought I knew, what I wanted to know. What a gift. . . Readers are in for a treat.” —The Millions, “A Year in Reading: Paul Yoon”

“Intertwining psychological, historical, and scientific insights, and seamlessly incorporating vignettes set in Iraq, Bosnia, and New England,Happiness explores the unexpected parallels between urban wildlife and the humans living next them . . . Aminatta Forna has given us a pertinent novel, one whose prose is fluid and dynamic.”Zyzzyva

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