Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: The Underside of Joy

By Sandy Amazeen Nov 30, 2012, 6:57 GMT

Book Review: The Underside of Joy

"[An] exquisite debut . . . moving and hopeful.? -People Style Watch To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the Northern California river town of Elbow, California, with her husband Joe and his two young children. But one summer day Joe drowns, leaving Ella alone with Annie and Zach-until his ex-wife, Paige, shows up at the funeral. For three years, Ella believed that Paige had selfishly abandoned her family. ...more

After going through a messy divorce due to infertility issues, Ella Beene was enchanted by Joe and his two young children. Claiming she wasn’t cut out for motherhood, Joe’s first wife Paige walked out on him, three year old Annie and infant son Zach without a backward glance. Three years of happy marriage came to an abrupt end early one morning while Joe was pursuing his photography hobby, throwing Ella’s well-ordered life into total disarray. As Ella attempts to buffer the children from the worst of the trauma, she learns the family store is a financial disaster. Paige’s appearance at Joe’s funeral came as a shock but her announcement that she was now ready to raise the kids was the real bombshell. Ella is equally determined Annie and Zach should remain with her, the only mother they have ever known. What follows is a finely nuanced story revolving around Ella and Paige’s choices.

Excellently developed characters augmented by a strong setting and compelling storyline make this debut chic lit novel shine. Difficult choices coming back to bite, financial hardship and custody issues are real world problems making it easy to empathize with Ella as she struggles to do her best for the children. Life is messy and so are the characters and situations they find themselves in which is why the rather convenient conclusion is the only complaint in this otherwise outstanding book.

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