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The Year of Perfect Happiness

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Fiction
  • by: Becky Adnot-Haynes
  • Date Published: November 2014
  • ISBN-13: 9781574415650
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 192pp
  • Price: $14.95
  • Review by: Girija Sankar
In The Year of Perfect Happiness, nobody is perfect. Under a veneer of normalcy and seeming perfection lie malice, cunning, chicanery, and evil. In people like you and me that populate the landscape of Middle America—the ones with dreams and aspirations to have good jobs, a family, career and friends—have a little malice in us. Characters in Becky Adnot-Haynes’s The Year of Perfect Happiness, a collection of ten short stories, are etched with the slightest of kinks, of imperfections, that allow the evil to seep through, making the ordinary seem that much less so. Female protagonists are drawn with an eye towards the slightly weird, the eccentric, with tinges of idiotic. The characters stay with you long after you’ve flipped the page.

In “The Men,” we meet Addy, whose life is arranged thusly: “power yoga on Saturday mornings, jogging on Tuesday nights, reality television no more than three nights a week. . . [t]wo close friends.” But soon, the Addy of the power yoga nights and jogging days is unmasked to reveal a woman who eschews stability. She harbors an aching need to dispose of her men—her boyfriends—with alarming regularity. They excite her and then, soon enough, bore her. While on a peak with the current man in her life, she worries that the rolling mists may mar the light for their pre-breakup photographs:
What should be a beautiful vista of the charming, historic town below [. . .] Is lost in a cloud of haze, thick as cotton. She begins to think of what she will say to Cole, and a tear wells up in her eye.
In “Baby Baby,” Mina wears a pregnancy belly in a moment of jest, a thing for her to enjoy in privacy. Soon though, she trots the belly out for meetings with her realtor. The farce takes on a life of its own and eventually, rocks her marriage with Tom.

There’s Nell in “Rough Like Wool” who marries an older man, gets pregnant, and develops a strange psychosis that threatens her sanity, and later, their marriage.

It must however be said that some of the characters from different stories seem eerily similar, and story lines navigate already-trodden plots. In “Baby Baby,” the couple goes house hunting—the wife prefers traditional and the husband, sparkling steel and chrome. In “Grip,” she likes pre-war and he, sleek stainless steel. Gwen in “A Natural Progression of Things” has an “evocative gap between her front teeth.” Cora in “Grip,” has, you guessed it, a gap between her teeth. This is just a mild annoyance in an otherwise funny, intelligent, and thought-provoking collection of short stories.

Who are these people that Adnot-Haynes has conjured up? The freaks, the eccentrics, the paranoid? Through these characters, the author is holding up a mirror to readers, encouraging us to examine the depths of our own consciousness. And sure enough, you begin to relate to many of them. We all have a little evil in us. We don’t always make the right choices. We know we’ve pushed our loved ones to the brink with our silliness and irrational behaviors. It is at once comforting and disturbing to be able to relate to the kooks and the eccentrics.
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Review Posted on March 02, 2015

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