Happy Now?

A Novel

Katherine Shonk

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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After many lonely years and alarming Internet dates, Claire Kessler, an artist and self-proclaimed homebody, believed she had found the perfect man. Jay was earnest, romantic, and gainfully employed, and within a year they were married.

Less than two years later, Jay had killed himself.

On Valentine’s Day.

Happy Now? follows Claire’s chaotic and often tragicomic journey through the weeks that follow her husband’s suicide. Nomie, Claire’s pregnant younger sister, welcomes Claire into her guesthouse and abandons her own husband in solidarity. Claire’s father turns into a concerned stalker, trailing her every movement. Encounters with well-meaning therapists go horribly awry, and Jay’s abandoned cat goes on a hunger strike. All the while, Jay’s suicide note lurks on the coffee table, waiting for Claire to gather the courage to read it. As she struggles to confront the truth about her marriage, Claire also struggles to negotiate life as a young widow—the well-intentioned remarks, the sympathy bouquets, and the terrifying prospect of dating (and loving) again.

With wit and compassion, Katherine Shonk explores both the possibilities and the limitations of human relationships. Happy Now? is an uncommonly honest portrait of love, loss, and letting go.

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Book Excerpts

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When the front door of the coach house swung open, Claire saw her dead husband’s cat trotting toward her.
“Oh,” she said as she entered, chilled to the bone. “Fang is here.”
The cat passed Claire, sat on the doorframe, and looked out at the yard, tail swishing. A tightness gripped Claire’s throat. Fang was looking for Jay.
Claire’s sister, Nomie, and Harry, Nomie’s husband, brushed by her and the cat and disappeared down the long hall. Claire lingered, scanning the small yard along with Fang.

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Praise for Happy Now?

“With grace (and graciousness), Shonk shows us a relationship that, while full of love, could never have been enough for one of the people in it. It’s a simple and in some ways quite conventional story, but Shonk describes her characters’ complicated emotions with such care that every moment feels essential. As Claire shifts between anger, heartbreak and numbness—and inevitably begins to move on—her anguish feels familiar yet remains utterly her own. Happy Now? is a raw, lucid portrait of a life just after it’s been shattered, as it begins to take on a new shape.” —Eryn Loeb, Time Out New York (Four out of five stars)
The title of Katherine Shonk’s accomplished, moving first novel strikes just the right note. . . [Shonk] traces [her heroine’s] odyssey from grief, guilt and rage to acceptance with such honesty and empathy, leavened by startling but bracing humor, that we hope for the best for her appealing protagonist—and for more novels from this talented writer.” —Wendy Smith, Chicago Tribune
“[Shonk’s] distinctive voice —the ironic, self-mocking sense of humor, the flair for capturing the ache of imperfect romantic love, the observation of quirky behavioral details, the starchy appraisal of flawed character, the telling sense of family dynamics—is once again on display.” —Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
“Carefully configured with telling details, Shonk’s brooding yet wryly witty drama is a revealing tale of family ties, love gone awry, and the wintry season of grief.” —Booklist
With gentle humor and a complex heroine, Shonk’s confident first novel uses a light hand to sketch out some dark truths. Sensitive and engrossing portrayal of the grieving process that never resorts to cliché.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The latest from Shonk will have anyone who’s ever complained about a crappy Valentine’s Day counting their blessings . . . Both tear-jerking and laugh-out-loud funny, this will have readers rooting for its brave heroine and hoping that, indeed, she will one day be happy again.” —Publishers Weekly

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About the Author

Katherine Shonk

KATHERINE SHONK is the author of The Red Passport, a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year. Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories and Tin House. She works as an editor and writer for Harvard University and lives in Chicago with her husband.

Katherine Shonk

© Michael Rastall

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Available Formats and Book Details

Happy Now?
A Novel
Katherine Shonk

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
April 2010
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429932042
ISBN10: 142993204X
272 pages

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
March 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312681159
ISBN10: 0312681151
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 288 pages

From The Publisher

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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