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A beautiful and affecting novel -- bittersweet and comic -- on the elusive nature of happiness

Maggie is in her early thirties, gainfully employed, between relationships, and ready for a change. But when she takes a quiz in a magazine that promises to predict the date of a person's death, she's shocked to learn she's going to die before her next birthday unless she can somehow discover contentment in life. What ensues is a quirky and satisfying journey in pursuit of true happiness, a quest that leads to unexpected joys and perceptions.

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062106377
List price: $10.99
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Hmm. Kind of boring until the last 1/3 of the book. I don't know why I kept reading it instead of putting it down like I usually do with books I don't enjoy.more
What struck me first about this novel is how very formal the language is - reading the first few pages I thought it must be taking place in say the 30's or 40's. the writing remained very formal - gorgeously descriptive though."The woman's voice was high and very clear and had a warble in it, like cold milk pouring out into a tin cup, or a small, resonant ringing bell, and her head sat as gracefully on its upholstered chin and neck as if she were sitting for a portrait" p 135-136I loved the vivid descriptions but it did grate a little when the story perspective is from a contemporary woman in her mid thirties. For most of the book I was involved in the story, the idea and even the very odd descision she made but i lost any sympathy for the character as she swanned around Canada sightseeing leaving her kidnapped newborn niece in the hands of complete strangers and then finally hands the the baby straight to the father at the airport in what is somehow supposed to be a haze of confusion. This in particular snapped the cord of already stretched believability for me andI just didnt care at the end.Worth reading for the stunning description but sadly not the chracters or plot.more
I know that I always complain about books that are written in a colloquial style. Now I find myself complaining about the emphatically literary style of The Sad Truth About Happiness by Anne Giardini. Less than halfway through my reading, I felt as though I would be required to hand in a paper on it, say the symbolism of the chapter titles: Attic, Hall, Chimney Pots.... I am sure that as the daughter of Carol Shields, Giardini could turn in nothing less but it impeded the story which was actually quite interesting.The second last paragraph sums up the message well:"Life is perhaps after all simply this thing and then the next. We are all of us improvising. We find a careful balance only to discover that gravity or stasis or love or dismay or illness or some other force suddenly tows us in an unexpected direction. We wake up to find that we have changed abruptly in a way that is peculiar and inexplicable. We are constantly adapting, making it up, feeling our way forward, figuring out how to be and where to go next. We work it out, how to be happy, but sooner or later comes a change--sometimes something small, sometimes everything at once--and we have to start over again, feeling our way back to a provisional state of contentment."more
Maggie is a goody-two-shoes with liberal parents and two high-maintenance, high-strung sisters. Her roommate is Rebecca, who is a freelance writer who creates "tests" for readers for magainzes. Rebecca creates a test which she swears will predict when you will die. Maggie takes the test, and the results are disturbing. Good premise but the author did too much telling instead of showing.more
This is the story of Maggie, who takes a magazine quiz and answers "Are you happy?" with "no". I had to suspend my disbelief while reading about Maggie and her roommate who had designed the test (Rebecca) puzzling over the results: that Maggie would die in about 3 months and that changing the "no" to a "yes" would extend her life by about 60 years.Maggie becomes involved in the custody battle between her sister Lucy and Lucy's married lover Gian Luigi. Again, some suspension of disbelief was required as Maggie found a homeless person who "babysat" the child without harming him, and also found a community of women all so willing to house and nurse three perfect strangers (Maggie, Rebecca and the child). The more "ordinary" parts of Maggie's life -- dating different men, working as a radiology technician -- were more real and interesting than the main plot. And, there was throughout the book interesting insights and perspectives on the meaning of happiness.I think Anne Giardini has potential as a writer, and I won't give up on her. But this first attempt was less than spectacular.more
Maggie is an unattached thirtysomething with a satisfying job, a reliable roommate, and somewhat unusual family. All seems well until she is asked "are you happy?" as part of a quiz, and realizes that NO, she isn't completely happy. This revelation unnerves her. The story then takes quite a turn when, in a daring and uncharacteristic scene, Maggie attempts to save her sister's newborn from his father. Giardini's prose is beautiful, but the story itself becomes disjointed and almost unbelievable. Still, it makes the reader think about the eternal human quest for love and happiness.more
I heard Anne Giardini interviewed on the CBC (before the strike) and that prompted me to buy this book. The dust jacket has a fascinating picture of a woman dressed in a fancy floral outfit but you can't see her face because she's looking away from the camera. I think that's the message; happiness is illusive and obtained through avoidance.The book starts out really strong telling the story of Maggie, a middle-age, middle child, who has recently changed careers to become a radiation technician. Her reflections on her family and her everyday life serve up a series of variations on what happiness is, or is not.Ann Giardini is Carol Shield's daughter, and up to the middle of the book, it reads very much like a novel written by Carol Shields. In the middle of the book, Maggie's sister Lucy gives birth to a baby fathered by a married Italian man. The man and his wife come to Canada to take the child away. (I hope I haven't given too much away here.) In my opinion, the book gets a bit silly after this.Summary; interesting book, worth reading. In fact, I think I'll read it again.Almost forgot to mention - a typical Canadian book. Too much discussion of weather and places in Vancouver.more
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Reviews

Hmm. Kind of boring until the last 1/3 of the book. I don't know why I kept reading it instead of putting it down like I usually do with books I don't enjoy.more
What struck me first about this novel is how very formal the language is - reading the first few pages I thought it must be taking place in say the 30's or 40's. the writing remained very formal - gorgeously descriptive though."The woman's voice was high and very clear and had a warble in it, like cold milk pouring out into a tin cup, or a small, resonant ringing bell, and her head sat as gracefully on its upholstered chin and neck as if she were sitting for a portrait" p 135-136I loved the vivid descriptions but it did grate a little when the story perspective is from a contemporary woman in her mid thirties. For most of the book I was involved in the story, the idea and even the very odd descision she made but i lost any sympathy for the character as she swanned around Canada sightseeing leaving her kidnapped newborn niece in the hands of complete strangers and then finally hands the the baby straight to the father at the airport in what is somehow supposed to be a haze of confusion. This in particular snapped the cord of already stretched believability for me andI just didnt care at the end.Worth reading for the stunning description but sadly not the chracters or plot.more
I know that I always complain about books that are written in a colloquial style. Now I find myself complaining about the emphatically literary style of The Sad Truth About Happiness by Anne Giardini. Less than halfway through my reading, I felt as though I would be required to hand in a paper on it, say the symbolism of the chapter titles: Attic, Hall, Chimney Pots.... I am sure that as the daughter of Carol Shields, Giardini could turn in nothing less but it impeded the story which was actually quite interesting.The second last paragraph sums up the message well:"Life is perhaps after all simply this thing and then the next. We are all of us improvising. We find a careful balance only to discover that gravity or stasis or love or dismay or illness or some other force suddenly tows us in an unexpected direction. We wake up to find that we have changed abruptly in a way that is peculiar and inexplicable. We are constantly adapting, making it up, feeling our way forward, figuring out how to be and where to go next. We work it out, how to be happy, but sooner or later comes a change--sometimes something small, sometimes everything at once--and we have to start over again, feeling our way back to a provisional state of contentment."more
Maggie is a goody-two-shoes with liberal parents and two high-maintenance, high-strung sisters. Her roommate is Rebecca, who is a freelance writer who creates "tests" for readers for magainzes. Rebecca creates a test which she swears will predict when you will die. Maggie takes the test, and the results are disturbing. Good premise but the author did too much telling instead of showing.more
This is the story of Maggie, who takes a magazine quiz and answers "Are you happy?" with "no". I had to suspend my disbelief while reading about Maggie and her roommate who had designed the test (Rebecca) puzzling over the results: that Maggie would die in about 3 months and that changing the "no" to a "yes" would extend her life by about 60 years.Maggie becomes involved in the custody battle between her sister Lucy and Lucy's married lover Gian Luigi. Again, some suspension of disbelief was required as Maggie found a homeless person who "babysat" the child without harming him, and also found a community of women all so willing to house and nurse three perfect strangers (Maggie, Rebecca and the child). The more "ordinary" parts of Maggie's life -- dating different men, working as a radiology technician -- were more real and interesting than the main plot. And, there was throughout the book interesting insights and perspectives on the meaning of happiness.I think Anne Giardini has potential as a writer, and I won't give up on her. But this first attempt was less than spectacular.more
Maggie is an unattached thirtysomething with a satisfying job, a reliable roommate, and somewhat unusual family. All seems well until she is asked "are you happy?" as part of a quiz, and realizes that NO, she isn't completely happy. This revelation unnerves her. The story then takes quite a turn when, in a daring and uncharacteristic scene, Maggie attempts to save her sister's newborn from his father. Giardini's prose is beautiful, but the story itself becomes disjointed and almost unbelievable. Still, it makes the reader think about the eternal human quest for love and happiness.more
I heard Anne Giardini interviewed on the CBC (before the strike) and that prompted me to buy this book. The dust jacket has a fascinating picture of a woman dressed in a fancy floral outfit but you can't see her face because she's looking away from the camera. I think that's the message; happiness is illusive and obtained through avoidance.The book starts out really strong telling the story of Maggie, a middle-age, middle child, who has recently changed careers to become a radiation technician. Her reflections on her family and her everyday life serve up a series of variations on what happiness is, or is not.Ann Giardini is Carol Shield's daughter, and up to the middle of the book, it reads very much like a novel written by Carol Shields. In the middle of the book, Maggie's sister Lucy gives birth to a baby fathered by a married Italian man. The man and his wife come to Canada to take the child away. (I hope I haven't given too much away here.) In my opinion, the book gets a bit silly after this.Summary; interesting book, worth reading. In fact, I think I'll read it again.Almost forgot to mention - a typical Canadian book. Too much discussion of weather and places in Vancouver.more
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