Book Review: The Underside of Joy

Disclosure: This year I have decided to participate in Blog Her Book Club as it combines two of my favorite things: reading books and getting paid. I get to choose the books I want to read and I get to say exactly what I want to say about them. So while I am compensated for my participation, all opinions are my own. You can read other reviews and participate in discussions about this book over at Blog Her if you are interested.

With my quest to read 75 books this year, I was looking forward to starting off with something easy and enjoyable.The Underside of Joy definitely fit the bill. Written by a local northern California author and taking place in a fictionalized town (that sounded very much like Benbow, CA which I have fond memories of from my youth) it was an easy read that I enjoyed having on my nightstand over the last couple of weeks. I read it little by little at night, and while that made it a long time to finish, the story itself moves at a rapid pace. There is a lot of action and it has the familiar feel of Jodi Picoult meets Chris Bohjalian. How you feel about those two authors will be a pretty predictable way to gauge how you will feel about this book.

This story resonated with me mostly because of my history with shocking loss. It takes place in the aftermath of the sudden accidental death of the main character Ella’s husband. The story is of her recovery from that loss as a parent to two small children. There were passages in this book that dealt with grief that were so accurate that it made me breathe a little bit shallower than usual. But the real meat of the story begins at when her late husband’s ex-wife (and mother of the two children that Ella has been raising for the past 3 years) comes back to stake her claim in their life. The story surrounds those emotional and legal complications.

I think if you can relate to either of those scenarios, this is a book that will certainly be worth your time. It is equal parts heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and for a debut author, this book was a good start. At the same time, there is a part of me that gets somewhat bored with these types of books that have an emotional cum legal plot manufactured to tug at your heart strings and make you think: “What If?” So while I didn’t think the premise was highly original, the book overall was definitely entertaining and I plan to pass it on. You can heck out more discussion (and more reviews) over at BlogHer.

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