A tightly plotted, brilliantly executed account of two families whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.
Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family - a Thai wife and two kids living in Queens. In the aftermath of this revelation, Ethan's mother spends a year travelling abroad, returning much changed, just as her now ex-husband falls ill. Across town, Ethan's half brothers are caught in their own complicated journeys: one brother's penchant for minor delinquency has escalated and the other must travel to Bangkok to bail him out, while the bargains their mother struck about love and money continue to shape all their lives.
As Ethan finds himself caught in a love triangle of his own, the interwoven fates of these two households elegantly unfurl to touch many other figures, revealing secret currents of empathy and loyalty, the bounty of improvised families and the paradoxical ties that weave through life's rich contours. With a generous and humane spirit, Secrets of Happiness elucidates the ways people marshal the resources at hand in an effort to find joy.
Author: Joan Silber
Paperback Published June 2021 288 pages
"The first character we meet here is Ethan, a gay New York lawyer who learns that his father has been leading a double life and that he has two half-Thai half-brothers. It’s an arresting beginning for what one critic has called “the relay narrative”, in which this story unrolls from one character to the next as, in turn, they offer their differing perspectives on the story being told. Each character has a place, sometimes very minor, in the previous character’s point of view and as the narrative baton is passed from one to the next, the story develops as both kaleidoscopic and panoramic. Unsatisfying in one respect, as it abandons each character in turn to focus on the next, this is still a clever and effective way to explore the disconnects and loose threads as well as the complexities of families and friendships, and to keep readers on our toes." Sydney Morning Herald