OVERRIDE

Happy Now?

A Novel

Katherine Shonk

Picador

When the front door of the coach house swung open, Claire saw her dead husband’s cat trotting toward her.   

Happy Now? follows Claire Kessler’s chaotic and often tragicomic journey through the weeks that follow her husband Jay’s suicide---on Valentine’s Day. Nomie, Claire’s pregnant younger sister, welcomes Claire into her guest house and abandons her own husband in solidarity. Claire’s father turns into a concerned stalker, trailing her every movement in his car. Encounters with well-meaning therapists turn horribly awry, and Jay’s abandoned cat goes on a hunger strike. All the while, Jay’s extensive suicide note (binder, actually) looms on the coffee table, waiting for Claire to gather the courage to read it. With wit and compassion, Katherine Shonk explores both the possibilities and limitations of human relationships. Happy Now? is an uncommonly honest portrayal of love, loss, and letting go.  

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1
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. It was February in Chicago, unless it was
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REVIEWS

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
“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

Reviews from Goodreads

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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
    Katherine Shonk
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Available Formats and Book Details

Happy Now?

A Novel

Katherine Shonk

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Picador

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