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The Underside of Joy: A Novel by Sere Prince Halverson
ISBN: 0452298733
ISBN13: 978-0452298736
Author: Sere Prince Halverson
Book title: The Underside of Joy: A Novel
Other Formats: doc mbr rtf lrf
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (November 27, 2012)
Language: English
Size PDF version: 1876 kb
Size ePub version: 1475 kb
Size fb2 version: 1961 kb
Category: Genre Fiction

“[An] exquisite debut . . . moving and hopeful.” –People Style Watch To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the Northern California river town of Elbow, California, with her husband Joe and his two young children. But one summer day Joe drowns, leaving Ella alone with Annie and Zach—until his ex-wife, Paige, shows up at the funeral. For three years, Ella believed that Paige had selfishly abandoned her family. Yet—as the custody fight between mother and stepmother ensues—Ella realizes there may be more to the story than Joe ever revealed. The Underside of Joy is not a fairy-tale version of step-motherhood, pitting good against evil, but a captivating story of two women who both claim to be the mother of the same two children.

Books reviews
I was emotionally exhausted after reading Seré Prince Halverson's debut novel, THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY. It took all of my being to read what I can only describe as an emotional rollercoaster. It's been a while since I've read a novel that's had me arguing with myself over what I would do, and still not be sure.
Ella Beene leaves an unhappy, childless marriage in San Diego and heads up the coast to Northern California, where she met Joe Capozzi. His wife, Paige walked out on him several months earlier, leaving him with a three-year-old daughter and a four-month-old son. They fall in love, and Joe's children, Annie and Zach, become Ella's. This is the family she's been longing for.
Joe's dreams of being a photojournalist ended when it became necessary for him to take over the family grocery store. He still loves to take pictures and one morning he sets out for the beach to do just that. This time, he doesn't come back. A rogue wave catches him and pulls him under.
After three years of marriage, Ella thought she knew everything she needed to know about Joe. But Joe took secrets with him and left unfinished business behind. When Paige shows up at his funeral and makes it clear that she wants her children, Ella is devastated. Paige says she had suffered from postpartum depression and, fearing that she would harm the children, left to seek help. She insists that she sent letters to Joe and the children - letters that Ella never saw. The custody battle takes unexpected turns.
Seré Prince Halverson's novel is an exploration of sadness and shame, anger and forgiveness.
Reading THE UNDERSIDE OF JOY is a marvelous experience. It's as if when one's reading the narrative, one's listening to a wonderful lyrical sonata ebb and flow as the grief, heartache and healing of the relationships finally find resolution. I feel privileged to have been given Halverson's novel to review. It's amazing to realize this is her first book. We can only imagine what wonderful work is ahead.
You can find Seré Prince Halverson on Facebook and at her website.
The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson is a very thought-provoking story about a wonderful step-mother and the life-changing events that transform her. Ella Bean, the second wife of Joe Capozzi, and affectionate stepmother to Annie and Zach, finds her life forever changed when her husband drowns in a freak accident. Shortly after his death, Ella discovers that her husband was not forthcoming with their financial situation; his family's local market is failing and Ella is left with a great deal of debt and little savings. She is totally devoted to Annie and Zach. She has taken care of the children since the oldest, Annie, was three years old; their mother, Paige, left them and seemingly never made contact. The children even refer to Ella as mom or mommy. Ella's despair deepens when Paige returns and wants custody of her children.

Ella tries her best to do what is right for the kids, her in-laws, her friends and lastly herself. She has great ideas and implements them in order to save the market. But, each success is bitter sweet because she is grieving for her husband, worrying about the kids, and uncovering more and more secrets.

The novel was well-written and engaging. I was glad that finally a stepmother was portrayed as kind and loving. I enjoyed Ella's relationships with her brother-in-law, David, her friend, Lucy, her in-laws, and her mother. I would have liked to have known even more about their stories.

I also wish that there was some real expression of anger by Ella at some point in the book. She was going through a stepmother's worst nightmare, and yet she remained so rational, so composed. Also, the oldest child, Annie, was a little too mature for a 9 year old. Additionally, she seemed to have no reservations about going off with her mother whom she hasn't seen for 3 years. It would have been more believable to me if Annie was conflicted about it.

It's definitely a book worth reading. It's a story that will stay with you.
The Underside of Joy

I highly recommend The Underside of Joy. It is a wonderful story about finding hope when the unthinkable happens. The novel tells the story of Ella Beane, whose world is ripped apart when the love of her life, her husband Joe, dies, and the birth mother of her two children, Paige, returns to claim them. Ella is a very likeable character, strong and vulnerable at the same time. I was swept up in her story from the very first page.

In this beautifully woven novel, Ella must uncover the truth, as horrific and heartbreaking as it is at times, and chose between what she believes is best not only for her and her beloved step-children, but what is right. Through her skillfully crafted prose and compelling cast of characters, author Seré Prince Halverson's examines how family deals with tragedy and loss, hurt and betrayal, secrets and lies.
I was intrigued by the title, The Underside of Joy. What could that possibly mean? From the start of this wonderful debut novel, I was swept into a world of unexpected heartbreak and yearning for truth and balance, and hope. The protagonist is suddenly faced with a puzzle of disturbing unknowns about her spouse, and this incomplete picture about her husband takes the reader on a dizzying, and increasingly dangerous ride. The writing blends gentle insights with blunt emotional impulses. The storyline speeds to a most satisfying end. I found myself wondering: How would I handle these revelations? These family secrets? And the title--it resonates beautifully well beyond the page. A winning debut.
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