- Awards & Prizes: Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award Shortlist 2005
Sad Truth About Happiness Paperback – Apr 3 2006
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.