The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson
Published by: Dutton
Published on: January 2012
Page Count: 320
Genre: Women’s Fiction
My Reading Format: Review copy sent to me by a publicist
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
Ella Beene found the life she always wanted when, after divorcing her first husband, she ran into Joe and his two young children at the family store. Joe’s wife abandoned her family just months before and Ella quickly fit into the lives of Joe, Annie, and Zach like a long lost puzzle piece. They married and Ella felt fulfilled in her role as wife and stepmother. Her happiness didn’t last long. It was only a few short years into their marriage that Joe died in an accidental drowning. At Joe’s funeral, the children’s birth mother appears. Through the process of determining what Paige’s intentions are for the children she abandoned and discovering that true state of the family store causes Ella to reevaluate her life, her relationship with Joe and his family, and fight for her role in Annie and Zach’s lives.
The Underside of Joy is a novel that touches on marriage, destiny, parenting, and family secrets. If found it both interesting and hard to put down from the moment Joe left the house on that fateful morning. The novel was rich in story with a young widow left to raise her stepchildren and save her husband’s family’s store. The added dimension of the shame brought to Italian immigrants sent to interment camps during WWII gave it that much more depth. The way in which the shame and the secrets seep through the generations can be stifling. By never speaking of it, people step on each other’s most tender parts without even knowing it.
I could very much relate to Ella as a heroine. Having moved away from my family to make a life in my husband’s hometown, I appreciated the way in which Ella adopted the town of Elbow, California. I wish that I could feel as connected to my community as she does. Because she had nothing to lose when she landed in Elbow, she was able to give her heart away to it. Being an adoptive mother, I also know well how a child can capture your heart completely. In that relationship, it is so important to put your own feelings and needs aside not only to allow but encourage your children to love and know their birth parents and extended family as it is appropriate to the situation. That Ella struggled with her conscience as the issues with Paige progressed felt true to me. I appreciated so much how she listened to her heart and took Paige’s circumstances into account along the way.
The Underside of Joy is a beautiful book. This only just begins with the cover. It had all of the elements that make reading women’s fiction fulfilling. I loved the world that Seré Prince Halverson created in Elbow and the various characters she brought to life there. It made me happy to be a reader and longing for the upcoming days this summer when the weather is nice enough to plan a family picnic. I highly recommend this book and will be keeping Seré Prince Halverson on my radar.