Book Talk: Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

" Secrets of Happiness unfolds across families and lovers, across time and expectations, across the country and across the world, and the bigger it gets, the more it shows how deeply connected we are. Joan Silber writes with a frankness and freshness that draws the reader closer with every page. It would be impossible to overstate just how good this book is."

Ann Patchett

The BookWalker

When a man discovers his father in New York has long had another, secret, family—a wife and two kids—the interlocking fates of both families lead to surprise loyalties, love triangles, and a reservoir of inner strength in this "expansive and elegantly crafted novel" (Fresh Air, NPR).


"Rich with the complexities of life . . . the stories create a world made fully dimensional through changes of perspective—major characters appear and reappear as part of one or another’s experience and testimony . . . Pull any life’s thread and you discover a mesh of involvement that soon takes in all the others. It is a fine thing, subtly done, and truly exhilarating." —The Wall Street Journal

About the Book


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 working abroad, returning much changed, as events introduce her to the other wife. 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 has struck about love and money continue to shape their lives.


As Ethan finds himself caught in a love triangle of his own, the interwoven fates of these two households elegantly unfurl to encompass a woman rallying to help an ill brother with an unreliable lover and a filmmaker with a girlhood spent in Nepal. Evoking a generous and humane spirit, and a story that ranges over three continents, Secrets of Happiness elucidates the ways people marshal the resources at hand to forge their own forms of joy.


Reviews & What Readers Say

"Few make fiction feel as exciting as Silber—and not in plot, but mere structure. Characters impact one another. Tones shift with perspective. Scenes build with profound scope . . . This latest novel feels like vintage Silber: stories interlinked with the confidence of Elizabeth Strout, but all their own mood and power."

—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly

“ Silber moves easily in and out of her characters’ heads; the novel is deceptively airy, yet, given a reflective reading, it has an ethical center without the shortcut of easy morality. Silber’s fans, and readers who enjoy smart, humane contemporary fiction that doesn’t talk down to them, will enjoy this work.”

Library Journal


“Joan Silber is a masterful writer of multifaceted characters in complex relationship dynamics . . . Her new novel follows a man harboring a secret—he's leading two lives, part of two families—and the impact of his deception radiates far beyond him.”

Arianna Rebolini, Buzzfeed, One of the Most Anticipated Books of the Year


“ A new novel in stories from the master of the form . . . Silber's storytelling is so artful [and] so filled with humor and aperçus . . . Echoes the great Grace Paley, to whom Silber is so close in spirit and voice. While Paley was an all–New York gal, Silber makes faraway places seem familiar—oh, for the time when we can work on knowing the world even one-tenth as well as she does.These secrets of happiness really will make you happy, at least for a few sweet hours.”

Kirkus Reviews



Nobody Ever Asked Me about the Girls: Women, Music and Fame

Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

Counterpoint

288 pages

ISBN 978-1640094451

Note: Now available. Click here

About the Author


Joan Silber is the author of eight books of fiction--her most recent is Improvement, fall 2017.

Her previous book, Fools, was longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Other works include The Size of the World, finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize, Ideas of Heaven, finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize, and Household Words, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her short stories have appeared in O. Henry Prize, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize collections, and in The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. She's known for stories that leap over long blocks of time, and this led her to write The Art of Time in Fiction. She lives in Manhattan and teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program.


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