Monday, November 13, 2023

Staff Picks: Happiness Falls by Angie Kim


Happiness Falls by Angie Kim

Do you equate verbal skills with intelligence? 

The question becomes a plot point in Angie Kim’s new novel, Happiness Falls, in which a young man on the autism spectrum rushes home from a hike with his father unable to explain why his father isn't with him.  

Fifteen-year-old Eugene Parkson exhibits signs of Angelman syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes developmental problems with speech and balance, intellectual disabilities, seizures, and unusual smiling and laughing. While Eugene’s enigmatic behavior is cause for concern and resentment from his siblings, their father wonders whether Eugene’s energetic jumping and carefree facial expressions indicate genuine happiness or are simply symptoms of his condition. 

College-aged Mia narrates the novel and confesses to failing to notice her father’s absence and misinterpreting her brother Eugene’s atypical behavior when he returns home. But Mia's emotions shift when she learns her father has been testing his happiness theories on his own children. (Overthinkers and anyone prone to self-analyzing will appreciate Mia’s captivating narration.)

As hours pass without any sign of Adam Parson, investigators turn their attention to the Korean American family at the center of the story and focus their attention on the mute teenage boy acting more and more erratic. Mia, along with her twin brother and mother, find themselves caught between protecting Eugene while trying to help the investigators locate Mia’s father. 

Happiness Falls reveals the intricate dynamics in families raising children with special needs, the legal complications unique to people with communication difficulties, and the complexities of life during the Covid-19 pandemic. Angie Kim writes authoritatively about her subjects. As a preteen, Angie Kim moved from Seoul, South Korea to Baltimore. She also studied philosophy at Stanford University, attended Harvard Law School, and edited the Harvard Law Review.

While Happiness Falls focuses on the Parson family’s desperate search for answers, the novel also raises intriguing questions about how to quantify and maintain happiness and highlights common misperceptions about the intellectual capabilities of people who are unable to communicate verbally. 

As fans of Miracle Creek, Kim’s 2019 award-winning debut novel, are well aware, her thought-provoking domestic mysteries feature unforgettable characters and riveting storylines. If you're looking for a fascinating book for your next book club discussion, check out Happiness Falls by Angie Kim. 

Keep reading and support your local library. 

Alicia Cavitt
Information Specialist 

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