Cover Image: Happy Like This

Happy Like This

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Member Reviews

Thank you for the opportunity to read this. I will be posting a full review to Goodreads, Amazon, and Instagram.
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Loved these stories the author has her own fabulous style.Stories about women quirky humorous kept me turning the pages.Flavor of writing Alice Munro an author to follow.#netgalkey #iowapress
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Thanks so much for the ARC, NetGalley. I loved this collection. I reviewed here: https://chireviewofbooks.com/2019/12/05/happy-like-this/
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I wanted so much more. 
The story intrigued me because could have been really a beautiful redemption story. In the end, it was a collection of stories, all around these women that insult one another and lie all the time. The conversation about mental illness was intriguing but overall didn't save this book.
Everything was forced, and just uncomfortable to read. I found some stories that had fatphobic characters without a redemption arc and that made me mad.
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The sound of her voice in the empty house reassures and splits her: she's both a woman preparing for lunch and a woman watching a woman prepare for lunch, objectively observing her actions, putting down a record of their purity and triviality, her innocence. Nothing to see here.
Happy Like This, by Ashley Wurzbacher, is a collection of stories about smart, perceptive, and mostly self-aware women.

The first story, "Sickness and Health," takes the form of a dissertation by a sociology student embedded within a group of students with factitious disorders. But of course, the line between the observer and her subjects breaks down. I would happily have spend an entire novel within this sociological breakdown. At first I was disoriented by the form of this story, but I found it wholly engrossing and was disappointed that it came to an end.

I'm writing this weeks after having read this book. It's probably not fair of me. But this is how I feel. These stories have promise.

I'm turning into a woman of a certain age, the kind of woman who says, but you're so young, you don't even know what love is, you don't know what death is, you just wait and see. I'm not sure I like that about myself. I've always taken some pride in being open-minded and non-judgemental.

Some stories are definitely stronger than others. Most of them, I realize now, were fairly forgettable. They are all about women, and the different forms (un)happiness takes — what they think happiness might look like. But they are about youngish women — Wurzbacher is observant, but limited. I couldn't help but think that these stories embraced a relatively naive view of love, death, relationships, happiness.

That said, I'm not a big fan of short stories in general; I think it's hopelessly difficult to pull off a satisfactory resolution to a short story. Wurzbacher at least kept me reading, while inside I might be stewing about how she has so much yet to learn — in life, if not about writing. I look forward to reading full-length work from her in a couple decade's time.
She brought him with her to carry the machinery, and that was where it began: the two of them twisted between flannel-lined sleeping bags. He often brought along a case of beer, and on one particular night, she had drunk too much and he just enough, and they made — not love but a kind of rough sketch of it, like a rehearsal.
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Happy Like This | Ashley Wurzbacher
⭐⭐⭐ / 5
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Happy Like This is a collection of short stories about women. Smart women, professional women, wives, daughters and mother's. And they have one thing in common. They're all searching for happiness.
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On paper, this book should have been right up my street. I LOVE strong independent women. And above all, I love women being happy. But I enjoy depth of characters which you just don't get with short stories. Just as I get into the flow of a story, it's over. Some of the stories I enjoyed more than others. I really loved some of the earlier ones, but by the time I got to the later ones, I was fed up of the lack of depth to stories.
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It's just a personal preference when it comes to short stories really, but this wasn't for me. Having said that, I've gone down the middle on my stars as some of the stories were very good.
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I received this advanced read copy from @NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Reminiscent of the short stories of Curtis Sittenfeld and Holiday Reinhorn with a bit of Jennifer Egan and A History of the Present Illness thrown in. Deliciously quirky and weird tales. My favourite was about a woman dressed up as a mermaid for a children's party who meets an ex while playing the mermaid - fantastically awkward. These are a bit of a slow read, but very rewarding. I'll be recommending them to my friends.
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Happy Like This is a connected set of short stories about women in different stages of their lives and the issues women deal with. I wanted to like this book because the concept was great.  Women who suffer from mental illness of all sorts and short stories about them, but the format was off putting for me.  I failed to connect with the characters and care about them much.
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Happy Like This is a book about women, for women. In a series of short stories the author writes about issues that every woman can relate to. From the effect of childhood traumas, to feeling shame about not having the 'perfect body', each story is intelligently written and thought-provoking. Other issues include, the nature of love, marriage, grief, infidelity, family and the search for meaning. Some are poignant, some are sad, but all are meaningful and relatable. Original and intense, I gained something from the story of each woman as they struggled to come to terms with their place in this world.
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I would like to thank University of Iowa Press and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of Ashley Wurzbacher’s Happy Like This, and National Book Award finalist Brandon Hobson for bringing it to my attention by choosing Wurzbacher as a National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree.

Happy Like This is a rare short story collections in which each story — and there are ten if I count correctly — is so engrossing, so well written that upon finishing one I immediately moved on to the next.  

Wurzbacher’s stories typically deal with young women — in their teens, 20s, maybe early 30s — living in small cities or towns.  The women navigate their relations with partners, sisters, and friends.  Their relationships feel deeply unsatisfying.

Most Happy Like This women work, but their work seems vaguely disappointing.  Some are accomplished — a doctoral students, a professor, a soloist ballerina — yet still drifting through their lives, while others just drift.

Even the best collections usually contain a mix of excellent, very good, and not-quite-so-good stories. Wurzbacher’s collection is remarkably consistent throughout.  I have my favorites — “Like that sickness and health” (don’t bother to investigate the citations) about a doctoral student collecting small sample data on “factitious disorders” in the appropriately nicknamed “waif wing” of a college dormitory, “Fake mermaid” about a woman navigating her sexuality and her relationship, “Happy like that” about the death of a dear friend, “Burden” about a professional dancer struggling in the aftermath of an abortion, and the title story — but even my least favorites and “Like this American moon” and “Ripped” — are compelling.  I search to find flaws in Happy Like This, and perhaps my single disappointment is the similarity of the flat emotional tone in some stories, although that same flat emotional tone somehow increases the impact of those stories too.

4.5 stars
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Happy Like This is an anthology about smart women who look for happiness and validation in the most unusual places, in the most unconventional ways. It was one of my anticipated literary fiction reads this year, but sadly, my expectations weren't met.

I did love some of the stories in the collection, but found the writing fatphobic in multiple stories, even playing into the stereotype of fat people being lazy (they're called "lumpen and languid" in the book). 

It's still an interesting read, and I'm sure I would have loved it if it hadn't been for the writing.
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A collection of stories about women in various points in their life. While that is possibly the most boring sentence I could write - Ashely Wurzbacher has written a collection that cuts deep into my soul. I wanted more of each woman, I wanted the stories to continue. 

Wurzbacher is talented and has bit of Alice Munro in her. I can't wait to see what's next. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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I loved the premise of this book but I really struggled to connect and engage. I think with short stories, the first one really had to get me hooked and I just couldn't relate. I think sharing our stories is super powerful and so important but I really had a hard time with this book. I see that many people just loved it so I could be an outlier with this one. I think the writing style just didn't; work for me and took away from the important topics that were being addressed.
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'The rest of her life: looming, open-mouthed. She was heading straight for it on autopilot but couldn’t recall having chosen or engineered it.'

This is an incredibly engaging debut collection of stories, which I devoured! My only complaint is it ended too soon, I wanted more. The writing is beautiful, it brings light to dark thoughts, it speaks of the intelligent minds of women and their choices. The happy pink cover betrays the depth of the female characters within perfectly, just like the world does. I do love the cover though, it’s simplicity, it reminds me of doodles in a journal. There is a line in the very first story, Like That Sickness and Health, that shocked my insides, there are mothers like this (some can’t help themselves really and others are a whole other nightmare) “…her mother, for some reason, making problems in the few places in her life where there weren’t problems already-“, I know there are women out there who feel that like a boulder in their stomach. Mothers can make things so much harder sometimes. Sickness as a study, what afflicts one afflicts in some ways all. Ashley Wurzbacher absolutely pins the female psyche in place for perfect study from the start. This has become one of my favorite short stories collection, and I can’t wait to see what this author rustles up in the future. There is something rich about pain for women, these college girls in particular, how they use it or ignore it and soldier on- this is one of the best short stories I ever read. Pain as expression, a language for what we can’t or won’t say. As  Mia works on her dissertation, “A Qualitative Study of the Effects of Factitious Disorders on the Social Lives of College-Attending Females”, she learns more about herself in the midst of these needy, suffering girls and their ‘exaggerated symptoms’.

What does happiness look like? Ambition? Love? Women make choices, sometimes just to feel moments, not to erase what already is. Not everything has to build and intensify, though often they do grow out of our control, these desires. In Happy Like That, Elaine tries to understand her dead friend’s secret affair. How she misses Lillian’s raw honesty, her ‘ease’ that Elaine longed to ‘soak up’. A friendship of opposites, the sort that pulls at you to judge the world less harshly.

I was absolutely charmed by Like This American Moon, “the foreign girl is coming”, it smacks of expectations and the ridiculous assumptions so many make about foreigners, more so when you’re stagnant and haven’t seen anything of the world. Take heart! Those of us who have been abroad and visited by family from other countries know full well over there, wherever there may be, hilarity over how they imagine Americans are can ensue too. Americans aren’t the only ones making outlandish assumptions, though we do make an art form of it. How does author Ashley Wurzbacher manage to tickle me with her characters humor and at the same time knock me senseless with sorrow? Some people never go anywhere, not because they are lost in a swamp of ignorance but because they are forced into a limited existence, so often born into it. You can love a way of life, even while you are dying inside. I think twelve year old Jean has a lot figured out before her time, and largely due to the disappointment adults dish out to her, I warmed to her fast.

I can’t crow loudly enough to do this collection justice, it’s not just for the women, though it is about them. Is it the world breaking us, or are we the ones doing the breaking of our own spirit? It depends on circumstance. To be young again and desperate to understand just who you are now, who you are going to be, to feel the rush of first moments like love as if it’s bound to cleave you in two, how do we figure out anything? When do we? How do we get to a point where we fizzle out, or lack ambition? When do we get scared of all the dangerous things that can happen, like Robin in The Problem With You Is That? Why must women so often be the villain, forced into taking a stance to keep others safe? This isn’t a collection about what women are supposed to be, marching together in perfect harmony cocksure about life and their place in it, oh no- these are women who haven’t figured things out, or young girls hungry for identity or sick with expectations and wanting to curl up in the comfort of illness. Women who are just trying to keep people safe, or life together, or figure out what direction the wind is going to blow them next time. Age isn’t the identifier of wisdom, a young girl can be shrewd in the assessment of where she stands socially in the world. She can understand her damaged father more than her mother, who long ago left. Women are wise creatures, but we are a bit faulty sometimes and maybe it’s because the world demands so much of us. Hell yes, read this collection! I have a new favorite author!

Publication Date: October 15, 2019

University of Iowa Press
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Wurzbacher skillfully tells the stories of different women at different stages in their life, who are challenged and burdened by indecision and the way they seek happiness. As blunt and mundane a problem might seem at first, the author convincingly portrayed their motives and emotions so well, that it made me feel with each of the women. The problems and issues that they are struggling with are depicted with such a raw honesty. It is written so easily to read through, but in a tone that holds quality and brilliance. The characters are flawed and so human, their thoughts real, and they speak with a frankness that make their definition for happiness seems so justified, though some cases certainly aren't healthy. The insightfulness Wurzbacher brings with her stories is powerful and very brave.
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I often have a hard time connecting to short stories or end up wanting more. I was drawn to this collection mainly because it’s published by University of Iowa Press (my alma mater) and won the Iowa Short Fiction Award.

I am very glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone. These ten stories are all about smart women in different stages of their lives and the choices they are faced with, each on their own search for happiness and fulfillment. The writing is just gorgeous, the characters all unique and real, and I saw a little of myself in more that one of their internal explorations. There’s a story about a professional ballet dancer who has recently ended a pregnancy that just floored me.  A story about a family of four each dealing with their own issues and coexisting that felt authentic. Themes of loss and new beginnings throughout, with wit and humor sprinkled throughout. I took my time with these stories and I’m really surprised with how connected I was to each one. Fantastic storytelling, and I look forward to more from this author.
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Where do I begin? I absolutely loved this book. Each short story is a snapshot of life from a woman in a different stage of life, and dealing with a completely different set of challenges. Ashley Wurzbacher somehow makes each woman and her story entirely separate yet convincing. I was left wanting more of each story, in a good way. She writes her characters as human, with flaws and indecision and a great deal of introspection. Many of the stories sat long with me after I finished reading them, and contain relatability in one form or another. Her prose is artfully written, and I can’t wait to see what more she has to offer! She manages to capture the very human nature of questioning what happiness looks like and means in very different contexts. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves female-centered stories and literary fiction.
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Ashley Wurzbacher's 'Happy Like This' provides us with a series of snapshots into womanhood at its various stages and iterations. Each story provides a unique voice and narrative style that help differentiate each story and effectively create little caveats into the characters' lives. Some pieces are told in first-person, while others are conveyed in close-third. Each character feels fully actualized, flawed, and heartbreakingly human. There's angst, indecision, love, and pain interwoven into each tale. There are astonishingly beautiful moments, and mundane moments that are told so convincingly, they feel anything but. These stories are the kind that stay with you, that you'll want to revisit to further analyze. 

In all, 'Happy Like This' is a stunning work that reflects the gamut of womanhood in all its complexity. Wurzbacher's writing is revelatory, and I can't wait to see what she writes next.
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It's not always easy to be a woman and there are no shortages of pivotal circumstances and choices to be made daily. In her debut collection, Happy Like This, Ashley Wurzbacher has skillfully crafted a series of essays that examine the lives and choices of her female protagonists.  The events in the essays range from bizarre to common place, but each entry provides a glimpse into the introspective process of women in different stages of life.  This is a timely set of essays that will provide multiple generations of women characters to identify with and those to learn from.
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Beautiful short stories! I felt so connected to the complicated women and girls that Ashley Wurzbacher gives life to on these pages. Thank you!
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