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Sad Truth About Happiness [Paperback]

Anne Giardini
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

March 23 2006

MAGGIE IS 31 YEARS OLD, single and solvent. As the perfect middle child of eccentric parents, Maggie has allowed herself to become a cool observer rather than an engaged participant in her own life. Only when she accepts her roommate Rebecca’s invitation to complete a magazine quiz does Maggie’s outlook begin to change. She answers the question “Are you happy?” with “no,” a response that threatens to shave decades off her life. In fact, the quiz predicts that Maggie has only three months to live.
    Maggie’s sisters—stormy Lucy, who has just returned from Rome pregnant and unmarried, and self-absorbed Janet, who has found contentment in a single daily pill—distract Maggie from seeking her own measure of happiness. But when it appears that Lucy will lose custody of her newborn child, Maggie is forced into action. On the road with baby Philip, Maggie is helped by a succession of women who speed her, like a heroine on an old-fashioned quest, on her way. Is Maggie’s journey the route to happiness, or is happiness simply too mysterious, too elusive to lend itself to capture?
    Anne Giardini has intuitive storytelling ability, an affinity for the interior voice and a warm affection for her fallible, lovable characters. The Sad Truth About Happiness is a witty and deeply felt novel that explores the vexing problems of family, love, work, friendship, loyalty, the ingredients of happiness and sorrow, and our purpose and role in the world.

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From Amazon

Set in Vancouver, Anne Giardini's debut novel, The Sad Truth About Happiness, follows the life of Maggie, 32, a well-adjusted radiation technologist, as she tries to discover the true nature of happiness. She knows she cannot look to her two sisters as examples: her older sister, Janet, burdened with three kids, is on tranquilizers, while Lucy, the younger, has always been difficult and discontented. Maggie's love life, however, is blossoming, with three new boyfriends (including a doctor and a lawyer). Meanwhile, Maggie's friend, Rebecca, who designs quizzes for women's magazines, tests Maggie with a quiz that purports to measure expected life span. When they learn, according to the quiz, that Maggie might die in three months unless she discovers true happiness, Maggie takes the light-hearted results seriously and sets off on her quest.

Around the same time, Lucy, who has moved to Italy, becomes pregnant by an older Italian man. She flees back to Canada, to the arms of good-hearted, innocent Ryan, who has offered to marry her. When her baby arrives, so does the Italian father, to take his son home to Italy. This is when the novel develops some far-fetched plot twists, as Maggie (who suddenly acts completely out of character) kidnaps the infant and takes off for Quebec with Rebecca, hiding in a small town apparently peopled only by good-hearted Quebecois women. While the author shows a literary flair, particularly in her descriptions of the sky and weather ("the dove- and pearl- and abalone-coloured clouds," "hail the size of infants' teeth"), and draws characters that are, for the most part, believable, the book (like Maggie's evasive happiness) is marred by series of unlikely events and coincidences. --Mark Frutkin

From Publishers Weekly

This charming though overwritten debut from novelist Carol Shields's eldest daughter hinges on the sympathetic protagonist's realization that she is "not completely" happy, an insight that surprises her when a magazine quiz devised to predict longevity calculates that she has but three months to live. Thirty-something Maggie Selgrin, an unmarried radiation technologist in a Vancouver hospital, has always been the even-tempered middle daughter in a remarkably wholesome family. Despite her professional stability, solid friendships and close family, the quiz triggers her admission of discontent. Not only does she ache for romance (she links joy with the idea of a relationship), but she realizes she has always subsumed her needs to those of her more temperamental sisters. Maggie flounders and fumbles to regain her emotional footing before no less than three men enliven her static existence and she becomes embroiled in the kidnapping of her sister Lucy's baby. Giardini's meditative, hyper-descriptive prose can bog down the plot, but readers will surely relate to her likable heroine. And if the story offers no novel lessons about life, love or the pursuit of happiness ("Happiness evades capture, dissolving like a melody into the air, eluding even the most delicate, careful grasp"), it does provide a pleasantly entertaining journey. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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3.0 out of 5 stars Promising Story Aug. 31 2010
The premise for the story and the underlying message held my attention throughout the book. I felt that the author introduced too many characters, some of which were not well developed and others that lacked credibility. A lot of space was given to developing Maggie's parents yet they were not key to the story. The Italian boy friend and three Canadian suitors came across as little more than cardboard characters. The same can be said about the depiction of the two sisters. Fewer characters and better character development of those that remain along with some editing would have yielded a better book. The author tended to recap events in the story from chapter to chapter which held back the narrative.

These criticisms aside, the main theme of the story is solid. Living life to the full and making a difference rather than floating along with the flow was convincing and thought provoking. I had not heard of this author prior to reading this book and would be interested in reading more from Anne Giardini.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars She writes really well.... but Nov. 5 2009
By BJ Knapp - Published on
Just where in the heck was the plot?

I finished it today. I want to know if Maggie achieved happiness? Did she die when the magazine quiz predicted she would? What happened to that part of the story? It's almost like someone at the book binding company took two unrelated books and bound them together to see if anyone would notice.

There are too many little tangents that don't go anywhere in this book. The scenes are described beautifully, but most of them could have been stripped away and it wouldn't have made a difference.
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal Dec 27 2013
By Carissa Skrivanek - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I can't believe these reviews. This novel touched a chord in me. You know how Tim O'Brien said all of it is true and some of it really happened? Giardini captures the truth through fiction. What a wonderful spiritual journey in words and pages.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I like the premise, but the book -- did not hold my attention Aug. 12 2005
By D. Frank - Published on
The idea seemed interesting, but the book itself was difficult to stay focused on. The drawn out descriptions and filler writing was distracting. I read 1/3 of the book and finally gave up. For those that don't mind extremely detailed writing you may enjoy it, for those looking for a fulfilling weekend read ... this may not be your best choice.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Novel..... July 13 2006
By S. Defilippis - Published on
This novel reads more like poetry than prose. Its plot may seem thin, but it is simply a subtle novel about life's complex questions. The ending is uplifting. I am awaiting Giardini's second novel impatiently....
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