Happy Baby

Stephen Elliott




Trade Paperback

208 Pages



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Happy Baby is the story of Theo, once an orphan in the Chicago foster care system and now a grown man living in California. Saturated with memories of abuse and heartache, and filled with the simple wish to understand more about himself, Theo returns to Chicago to reconnect with an old girlfriend, a familiar face from his troubled youth. Told in reverse order, this edgy and powerful novel slowly and subtly turns mysterious, as we attempt to recognize the root of Theo's plight and the source for his quietly wavering humanity.


Praise for Happy Baby

"Happy Baby is surely the most intelligent and beautiful book ever written about juvenile detention centers, sadomasochism, and drugs."—The New York Times Book Review

"A most impressive little novel, heartbreakingly and bewilderingly alive in a way most bigger books can't even imagine."—Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com

"By telling his story backward, Elliott puts us in a . . . position of wanting to know/dreading the knowledge, and it's a graceful strategy that gives Happy Baby its unique veracity and humane edge. It also allows the narrative to transcend the shocking details of Theo's life, which Elliott reveals in quick verbal jabs that pepper his otherwise tightly wound prose."—The Village Voice

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Maria Has a Child

It's a half-empty early morning flight from Oakland into Midway and the sun is coming up, lighting the plane like the inside of an eyelid. The stewardess asks in a whisper if I would like another coffee and I say OK and she sets it on the tray with a white napkin and a small bag of cheese- flavored pretzels, which I stuff in the pouch with the others. I reach over my head and turn the light off. The plane is glowing, there's so much sun outside. I'm in the back and I have all three seats. I haven't been in Chicago in six years and I've only been on a plane three times in
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  • Stephen Elliott

  • Stephen Elliott is the author of numerous novels, as well as the nonfiction book Looking Forward to It: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the American Electoral Process. A native of Chicago, he lives in San Francisco and lectures at Stanford University.
  • Stephen Elliott