Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Audiobook Length: 10 hours
First Published: 2023
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Twenty-year-old Mia isn’t particularly concerned when her father and brother are late coming home from a walk. Until her little brother walks in covered in blood. With autism and a rare genetic condition, Eugene can’t communicate what happened. Now Mia must race to find answers. Did her father walk away? Did something happen to him? And could Eugene be responsible?
Although I appreciated its deep thought-provoking themes, Happiness Falls is an extremely slow read that was difficult to love. Mia’s narration grated on my nerves and the philosophizing on happiness and communication drug the story out. However, Happiness Falls powerfully hits on the family dynamics of having a nonverbal sibling and the ableist views of society. While I didn’t particularly enjoy it as I was reading it, I’m glad I read it.
“We didn’t call the police right away.” Those are the electric first words of this extraordinary novel about a biracial Korean American family in Virginia whose lives are upended when their beloved father and husband goes missing.
Mia, the irreverent, hyperanalytical twenty-year-old daughter, has an explanation for everything—which is why she isn’t initially concerned when her father and younger brother Eugene don’t return from a walk in a nearby park. They must have lost their phone. Or stopped for an errand somewhere. But by the time Mia’s brother runs through the front door bloody and alone, it becomes clear that the father in this tight-knit family is missing and the only witness is Eugene, who has the rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and cannot speak.
What follows is both a ticking-clock investigation into the whereabouts of a father and an emotionally rich portrait of a family whose most personal secrets just may be at the heart of his disappearance. Full of shocking twists and fascinating questions of love, language, and human connection, Happiness Falls is a mystery, a family drama, and a novel of profound philosophical inquiry. With all the powerful storytelling she brought to her award-winning debut, Miracle Creek, Angie Kim turns the missing-person story into something wholly original, creating an indelible tale of a family who must go to remarkable lengths to truly understand one another.
About Angie Kim
Angie Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea, and grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. Before becoming a writer, she was a trial lawyer, and an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Kim is the author of Miracle Creek and Happiness Falls. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband and three children. Visit the author’s website →