Thursday, January 19, 2012

{ book review : the underside of joy }

I have trouble staying focused when reading a book.
 That’s why I love blogs so much. Blogs are short and sweet and to the point. 
Just how I like most things in my life! 
But sometimes I find some books that just reel in my undivided attention. 
They keep me awake long past my bedtime 
and I find myself opening them at any given free moment I may have during the day.

The Underside of Joy was that kind of book for me.

This book is Seré Prince Halverson’s debut novel.
 It follows the story of Ella after the sudden death of her husband Joe. 
Joe and Ella had met just three years before his accident 
and immediately started a life together with Joe’s two children, Annie and Zach. 
Joe’s ex-wife, Paige, had left the young family without as little as an explanation. 
After Joe’s death, a reformed Paige returns to claim her children 
only to launch herself and Ella into a unique and heart wrenching custody battle for Annie and Zach.

I have to admit that this probably was not a great book for me to read.
I am a constant worrier and a fearful pessimist.
If my husband doesn't answer when I call
to see if he caught the train in time to make it home for dinner,
I soon type in a Google search with his train line to see if he was in a commuting accident.
When the freak earthquake hit the East Coast over the summer,
he texted me: "Earthquake at my building" and nothing more.
Within minutes I was making mental arrangements for life as a 23-year-old widow and single mom.

I guess when I think of the possibility of something happening to my husband
my mind has a hard time getting past the emotional side of things.
How could I ever live without him? Would I ever be able to move on with my life?
I can't even fathom the idea.
I think I would be paralyzed in my grief.
Yet accidents happen but life goes on.
Ella's life went on and, because she, like me, lived in la-la land,
she had to accept the burdensome task of figuring out just how Joe kept their lives going.

I too would have to pick myself up and be brave for Jake-the-Snake.
I would have to figure out utility bills, insurance payments, and bank accounts.  
Am I prepared for that? No way, Jose.
I should be more embarrassed to admit that
I don't even know when our mortgage payment is due, how much it is for, or how it is made.
(Hey husband... we should talk about that.)

Halverson’s writing style in The Underside of Joy made the story rise to life from the pages. 
She made Ella’s grieving process was real and relatable. 
My heart broke while reading about the love Ella had for the children 
she adopted into her heart and called her own.

Perhaps what surprised me the most was that Halverson manages 
to undo the antagonism associated with Paige 
causing the reader to also relate to her character, her pain, and look past her mistakes.

It’s a story about love, loss, family, doing the right thing, and rising to the occasion.
Am I being vague? I’m sorry! I just don’t want to give this story away. 
It’s worth a read. I’m a slow reader so it took me a couple of late nights to get through it 
but I suspect some of you would devour it in one or two sittings.

I in no way want to compare the story line or style to any others 
but I want to give you a point of reference so you can decide if this is a book for you. 
Mentally I categorize The Underside of Joy with two of my other favorites
My Sister’s Keeper and The Time Travelers Wife
Give it a read and let me know if you agree!

Disclosure: This is a paid review from the BlogHer Publishing Network,
however all the opinions I share are my own.

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