The Underside Of Joy

The Underside Of Joy

Book - 2012
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In the aftermath of her beloved husband's drowning death, Ella's initial support from her in-laws dissolves as long-buried secrets and family tragedies are revealed in the wake of a bitter custody battle against her stepchildren's biological mother.
Publisher: New York : Dutton, c2012.
ISBN: 9780525952596
Characteristics: 307 p. ; 24 cm.


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Sep 10, 2016

As a debut novel, this is fantastic. It's a gut punch of emotions that somehow never comes across as overwrought or unbelievable. It touches on the Italian Internment camps in the U.S. during WWII (which I didn't realize had happened, and is another mark in the tragedy that is 'a country priding itself on freedom and allowing fear to win'). It touches on the relationships we have with family, both blood relations and heart relations, and how those can lift us up and hurt us- even at the same time. It touches on regret, love, and most of all, parenthood.

If this sounds like a powerful book, it is. If this sounds like a depressing book, it is. Not hopeless, but it will give you the feels (especially if you have ever been a parent, step-parent, or foster parent, which I was for a time). Every character in here is realistic. No one is 'the bad guy', and actions with terrible consequences come from an (understandable) place of fear.

But there's also hope, new beginnings, compromise, and the transformative power of accepting your fear instead of letting it dictate your actions. And that kept it from being too sorrowful or stressful a read.

Overall, I recommend it for fans of women's fiction (even though I absolutely hate that term- it implies women are defined by emotional reads and men don't want emotional reads), especially book clubs as there's a lot to discuss. I will definitely be picking up any future books by this author (whether or not they're set along the Russian River in northern California, which is a spot I love).

madison382 Dec 01, 2014

Really enjoyed this book, even though I cried rivers of tears.

elisabeth321 Sep 23, 2014

Husband dies in ocean - two young step children - co parenting with step mother

ok - not great

Oct 24, 2012

Great messages about love, loss, hanging in, and compromise.

ChristchurchLib Oct 15, 2012

Three years ago, a young woman named Ella Beene stopped off in a northern California town, fell in love, and never left. For the past three years, she's been happily married to Joe Capozzi and raising his kids from an earlier marriage. But her joyful life is torn to pieces when Joe dies in a drowning accident - not only does she learn that the small family business is nearing bankruptcy, but Joe's first wife, Paige, has appeared, demanding custody of the kids Ella loves. With beautifully depicted characters (you'll sympathise with everyone, including Paige), this debut is a "pitch perfect" (Publishers Weekly) examination of what it means to make a family.

October 2012 Next Reads newsletter

branch_reviews May 11, 2012

For three wonderful years, Ella Beene has been living an idyllic life as wife to her dream man, Joe, and adoring stepmom to his children, six-year-old Annie, and three-year-old Zach. The family had been abandoned by Joe’s ex-wife Paige when Zach was just an infant, and she signed over full custody to Joe. But with one rogue wave in the northern California ocean, Ella’s perfect life shatters. As Paige comes back into the children’s lives, and Joe’s secrets slowly surface, Ella must face the fact her life wasn’t perfect after all. In her debut novel, Halverson avoids stereotypes and weaves a compelling story of two women who both want the best for the two children they each consider their own. Her love for the redwood forests, sprawling vineyards and small-town communities shines throughout. A journey of love, joy, family, grief, anger, despair and hope.
Reviewed by DC

May 08, 2012

Really enjoyed this, a good tear jerker, had to stay in bed reading it! Well written debut novel.

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