Cover Image: Happiness Falls

Happiness Falls

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I feel like I have been waiting for a second book from Angie Kim for a very long time! I am pleased to say that this did not disappoint.

We follow a family after the father has gone missing walking in the local park. The last person to see him alive is his son Eugene. However he is unable to share what happened as due to a rare genetic condition called Angelman.

The narrator of this book is the daughter Mia. I could possible see some people finding her an annoying character to read from. She is very self-centered. However, I found this quite an interesting narration choice. She also goes off on tangents and these are placed as footnotes allowing the reader to choose if they want to read them or not. This gives you further insight into how the mind of our main character works and made her and the family fee like read people.

A compelling and interesting read,

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I really enjoyed the exploration of alternative speech therapies. This area was highly researched and raised a lot of questions about how we as society treat those without “conventional speech” and why we think they’re capable of. I also found the insights into Mia’s experience as a biracial Korean-American living in both countries and with colourism/racism very interesting.

For me, there was a little too much focus on the “happiness quotient” element of the story, which I think contributed to the story being perhaps a touch too long.

The plot was good and the police procedural elements made sense. Loved that the ending didn’t give us all the answers!

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Angie Kim’s eagerly anticipated sophomore novel delivers more of what she’s become known for. It’s a multi-layered, well-researched, character-driven tale wrapped around a missing person mystery.

Adam Parson is missing. His family don’t call the police straight away; through a series of miscommunications and assumptions, the alarm isn’t raised. An adult man can’t just go to the park and disappear, can he?

“That’s what makes true missing-person cases the ultimate mystery, the broadest and deepest: when you hear someone’s vanished, you not only don’t know the who/how/why-dunit, but you also don’t even know what in hell it could be.”

Whilst there’s a mystery at the heart of this story, it mainly sits within the family drama genre, exploring the politics and relationships of a modern American-Korean family through the voice of 20 year old Mia, Adam’s daughter. She, her mother, her twin John and younger brother Eugene’s world is suddenly shaken by the disappearance of Adam. The last person to see her was her younger brother Eugene, but there’s a problem – Eugene can’t speak. Eugene has both autism and Angelman syndrome, an extremely rare combination of disorders which prevent him from speaking.

Having Mia narrate the entire story is a bold and interesting move, particularly as this is a story which really centres around the entire family. Our narrator is feisty, sarcastic and highly intelligent but at time she lacks emotional maturity. She has a tendency to jump to conclusions and develop her own theories, which aren’t always correct, and I felt sometimes took away the reader’s chance to form their own opinions.

Personally, I’d have been interested in hearing from some of the other characters in the novel – particularly the mother who felt like a complex character who wasn’t explored in a lot of detail. But, I’m sure the author had her reasons for this decision.

The story is framed around a mystery, but really it’s a lot more. The missing person hook is a springboard to explore the complexities of Eugene’s disorders and its impact on the the family. These topics are expertly and emotively handled, and I learnt a lot from it.

As well as being a tender exploration of living with neurodiversity, this novel goes further, philosophising and ruminating on the meaning of happiness. It also gives the reader a glimpse of the experiences of a mixed race family in modern society and it touches on the isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic. It’s an intelligent, emotional drama which packs in a lot, and Mia’s strong voice does help bring it together into a unique, moving story.

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For as long as she can remember, Mia Parkson's family life has revolved around her younger brother, Eugene, who is Autistic and suffers from a genetic disorder called Angelman Syndrome which limits his gross motor skills and means that he has never been able to speak. Their father, Adam, has devoted his life to giving Eugene everything he needs to thrive, spending countless hours trying different therapies which could improve Eugene's quality of life. It seems like an ordinary day when the pair set off for the local park for a therapy session and a picnic, until Eugene arrives home alone, clearly distressed yet unable to communicate what has happened. Mia and her twin brother John must now work together to uncover what Eugene knows and find their father.

My fundamental issue with Happiness Falls, Angie Kim's second novel, is that I found Mia, our protagonist and narrator, unbearably annoying. She is utterly self-absorbed, to the point where even her attempts at self-deprecation feel grating and insincere. I never connected with her twin brother John, whose main characteristic, we are told repeatedly, is being really nice. He very much seems to exist merely to highlight Mia's negative traits, and adds little value in his own right. Their dynamic is both insufferable and juvenile, lending a distinctly tween cast to the novel. I found myself wanting to skim read their scenes, which is difficult when they are working together to solve the mystery at the centre of the plot.

Happiness Falls definitely has a broader scope than the average mystery novel; it broaches some interesting themes, such as racism and the patriarchy, and the pandemic setting is used effectively both to advance the plot and throw obstacles in the characters' way. The exploration of Eugene's conditions and how they shape how he is perceived is genuinely thought-provoking, as is the rumination on the meaning of happiness - and how to maintain it - and on language.

However, the mystery elements do not stand up particularly well; threads are dropped and picked up with no discernible logic and some are left frustratingly unresolved at the novel's denouement. The use of past tense interjections to establish that Mia is writing about these events at some point in the future is initially intriguing, but ended up making the ending more of a let-down.

Thank you to NetGalley and Faber and Faber for the opportunity to read and review an ARC of this book.

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While I wished certain story threads were more developed, I couldn't help but be captivated by the overall narrative. It took me four days to finish because I found myself constantly delving into additional research on the intriguing concepts the book presents.

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When Mia’s dad goes missing, the only witness is her teenage brother, who is non verbal. As police hunt for her father Mia is trying to work through the clues, caught between protecting her brother and family, and trying to uncover what happened to her father.

Happiness falls is part mystery, family drama, and philosophical exploration. This was such a compelling and captivating read. The various twists and turns are subtle, and Mia’s nuanced forecasting leaves the reader in a state of perpetual unease.

I couldn’t put it down. The commentary of culture, ability, happiness, psychological wellbeing and family was really engaging. The exploration of the relationship between speech and intelligence reflected within different pockets of society was fascinating. I also really loved the way the author subverted readers expectations by playing on their thinking errors and biases.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking to be immersed in a reflective journey and to piece together the mystery - what happened to Adam Parsons?

Thank you Faber and Faber ltd., and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed are my own.

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I loved this novel. It revolves around the mystery of a missing man whose family has no idea what happened to him only that the youngest child who is non verbal has ran home from the park without their dad and there is no way of finding out....or is there?

I was gripped from the start. The pacing and exposition in the book were cleverly plotted out and the story kept me glued to the page and interested to learn more. The story is part mystery but also speaks of the importance of being seen and heard and believed in. Theres also notes to the quantifying quality of happiness that's interspersed throughout the story and from the beginning I just felt like this author has walked in this world of autistic/non verbal. It was so beautifully explored and you could really identify the feelings of wanting to be believed in and heard and feel like you belong.

I especially loved the authors note at the end going into where se did her research and what elements inspired her use of certain tools in the story and I found it really interesting and I admire authors that research the worlds in which they write about. I want to read more of her work. I can't recommend this enough.

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Buzz from across the pond about Kim’s novels led me to request this even though I don’t typically read mysteries. The bulk is set over 2.5 days in June 2020 as the Korean American Parkson family investigates, on their own and with the help of police and various local tip-offs, what happened to the father, Adam, who’d been at River Falls Park (= Great Falls, VA) with the severely disabled 14-year-old son, Eugene, who is autistic and has mosaic Angelman syndrome. Mother Hannah and 20-year-old twins Mia and John, home from college for the lockdown, quickly realize something is wrong when Eugene, who has blood on his shirt and under his nails, stumbles home on his own and Adam is unreachable by phone. There’s more to the setup than that, and many complicated side-tracks to the investigation, but the basic questions remain for 300+ pages: What happened to Adam? and What was Eugene’s part in it?

Mia narrates, and it’s a pleasure spending time with her quick, systematic brain as she runs through all the options and deals with each new theory and red herring. She clearly gets it from her father, whose recovered notebook is full of amateur experimentation on the “Happiness Quotient”. Her wit and garrulousness (sample aside: “I’m sorry, but I don’t care how much you love fun fonts—you cannot talk about prison rape in Comic Sans”) spills over into footnotes as if in effusive counterpoint to Eugene, who is nonspeaking.

The pandemic setting places interesting constraints on the official proceedings, and the prospect of a new communication method (involving painstaking spelling with a letter stencil) revolutionizes this family as they grasp that Eugene is far from nonverbal and has been ‘locked in’ all along. The account a therapist elicits from him seems to clinch the case, but uncertainty lingers.

This is like a blend of Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You, Rebecca Makkai’s I Have Some Questions for You, and Naoki Higashida’s The Reason I Jump; if you’ve liked one or more of these, I would strongly recommend it. Mystery readers may lack patience for the digressions. The solution is eclipsed by the many issues – prejudice based on race and disability, how one’s circumstances affect contentment, nuances of communication, sibling relationships and twin ESP – explored along the way. Because I am not a crime reader, the pace was no problem for me. My annoyances were with the preponderance of hindsight (“I wish I’d said something,” “It didn’t occur to me until much later”) and the fact that Mia says “begs the question” for raising a question (misuse of a rhetorical term) several times. I found personal significance in the book because of the Washington, DC-area locales and my severely disabled, nonverbal goddaughter. What if there really is something going on in her mind, and we could find out what it was… I mused. I’ll be keen to read Kim’s debut, Miracle Creek.

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I think that Angie Kim is a talented storyteller and her novels are a sort of literary thriller, stories that keeps you turning pages but are also well written and featuring characters who are well developed multifaceted.
This is the story of a missing person but also the story of a tightly knitted family, secrets and the search for the father.
A page turner I strongly recommend
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Angie Kim has written another brilliant literary thriller that looks at a parent's experience of raising a child who has special needs. I loved her first novel, Miracle Creek, and couldn't wait to get my hands on this one.

Happiness Falls follows the Korean-American Parson family, whose world is thrown into turmoil when the youngest son, Eugene, returns home - bleeding, dirty and dishevelled - from a morning hike, without his father, Adam. Eugene has dual diagnoses of autism and Angelman Syndrome and is non-verbal, so it is unclear to the Parson family and the local authorities what has happened to the missing Adam.

The story is narrated by Mia Parson, a gifted and confident 20-year-old student who is quarantined at home because of the COVID pandemic. Along with her twin brother, John, and their mother, Hannah, Mia must navigate her family's growing anxiety while also looking into who her father is and the theories that may explain his disappearance.

This is a brainy thriller. The story needs your concentration, but Kim's sublime writing ensures the experience of reading it is never complicated. As well as being a contemplation on language itself, Happiness Falls is an emotional and considered novel about love and family, and the sacrifices and compromises and challenges that come with raising a child with special needs. And it's a real page-turner.

As a parent of a child with a speech disorder, I found Kim's handling of this topic incredibly moving, particularly her understanding of the common assumption that if a child can't speak, they can't understand. And the profound impact being talked about - instead of to - can have on their sense of confidence. Kim mentions in her author's note the trauma children experience when they have no outlet in any language or any format; having words locked deep within them that they fear people will never realise are there.

"Just because you can't speak doesn't mean you can't think or understand."

Happiness Falls is an exceptional book. I inhaled it, and I hugged it when I finished.

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Happiness Falls is not what it seems, and this is evident from the beginning. It is a brilliantly woven tale of family life, a disappearance and the world of non-speaking individuals. Narrated in first person by one of the main characters, this novel moves cleverly from the present to memories to musings about happiness. It is a novel obviously ground in scientific research, but its narrative tone is easy to follow and beautifully descriptive. The pace is well-tailored to the story. So many thoughts about this brilliant novel.
A huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, who have shared an advance copy in exchange for this honest review.

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Partaking in the interplay of family dynamics and the unraveling of a literary enigma, Angie Kim's Happiness Falls stands as a testament to the craft of storytelling. Through meticulous character development, Kim navigates the intricacies of human emotions and the delicate balance within familial relationships. While the novel demands patience, rewarding those who approach it with an open mind and willingness to engage with its nuances, it ultimately proves to be a deeply satisfying literary journey.

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I was reticent to start this book. I saw it got a lot if hype on social media, shich sometimes put me off. But, once I started it, I could see it was deserving of rhe hype.
I thought the story was very unique, bit of a mystery rolled into a drama. The characters were compelling as was the very specific situation that the family were in, in having a non verbal child and the many complications that brings.
The story kept me engaged, as a reader you went on the journey of potential mis justice and suspicion that the family felt, hoping that the truth would come out and that the fathers accident was actually an accident.
Thoroughly enjoyed this.

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I was really excited to get approved for Angie Kim's new novel Happiness Falls billed as as a domestic thriller which seems to a universally loved.

The story is based around a Korean American family where the dad disappears after a walk with youngest child Eugene. Eugene has a rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and is non verbal so it makes it difficult ti

Told from the perspective if Mia, Eugene's college aged sister, the book moves from a missing person case to a philosophical adn scientific study into what is happiness and human connections and communication.

The narrative voice is unique as Mia retells the story, in the first person from the present time so you essentially know the outcome of the missing person case from the outset with phrases like "knowing what I know now" peppered throughout.

Mia as a character is marmite, there's a lot of stream of consciousness from her mind and overthinking everything both within the standard narrative and additional footnotes which started to grate on me more and more as the novel progressed.

Overall, there are some really interesting messages about communication and our perceptions and biases against people who can't communicate verbally which did really resonant with me. However this couldn't take away from how much Mia iratated me. Overall, I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more had it been told from a third-person perspective and we didn't have quite so much Mia.

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It’s not totally clear from the start whether the mystery here is what has happened to Mia’s missing dad or whether it’s the unusual behaviour of her non-speaking brother, but Happiness Falls romps along until revelations about what (may or may not have) happened to Mia’s dad. After that the voiciness of Mia as protagonist is just a little bit irritating, and the pages of notebook evidence from her dad is plain boring. I hadn’t remembered until the author’s note at the end that I’ve actually read another of Angie Kim’s books, Miracle Creek, and actually had very similar feelings of this is an interesting concept but I’m not quite into it enough.

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One of my favourite books I read in 2023!

A slow burn mystery, following a Korean/American family trying to figure out what happened to their father/husband. We follow 20 year old Mia, who's father leaves to go on a walk with her non-verbal, autistic brother Eugene. When Eugene returns home without his father, the family is left wondering what happened.

Being biracial myself, I always love books that discuss this, and Happiness Falls was no exception.

There were many thought provoking moments in the novel, such as the discussion on the use of "committed" suicide:
"She explained to Mom how I'd come up to her to discuss the police officials' use of the phrase "committed suicide." I'd argued the phrase was inherently judgemental, connoting guilt - you commit a crime, commit fraud, murder, sin; you don't commit strokes or depression. "

The scenes discussing Eugene being non-verbal also really shed a light on society's views on disabilities and the way that intelligence is measured.

One of the main themes of the book is the question: how do you define "happiness"? The whole idea of the happiness quotient was really interesting to me!

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an arc of a new favourite book!

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I found this a bit hard to get into, but as soon as I did I was completely hooked, layers of storytelling that is extremely well written, fully recommend

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This is not an easy book to read , told from Mia's point of view, it explores the disappearance of her father, who was out walking with Mia's brother , Eugene who has communication problems from birth. Mia and her twin, John are both 20 and at college, though this book is set in the Covid lockdown period so life and routines are different. Mia does document the investigation and family life both at this time and in the past, but her mind also makes associations with other stuff and there are a lot of footnotes (some about theory of what is happening, others about family life) which mean that you do have to concentrate on the main thread of the plot. Characters are also coloured by Mia's personal opinions. This book is set in the state of Virginia so the legal system / police investigation is not familiar to me personally and comes across as heavy handed .
Now that I have finished, I can say that I did like the book on the whole, though it did seem like a chore to read it at times. Mia is egocentric which can be irritating . There are a few cases of non -communication within the family, not only involving Eugene, which does illustrate that this is a multi-facetted subject, but there was some repetition and perhaps another viewpoint may have added to the story. It is thought provoking and does challenge stereotypes in society in some ways.
Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review

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Happiness Falls tells the story of a family trying to deal with the disappearance of their father Adam. The only witness to what happened was their son Eugene who is nonverbal.

I loved this story of a mystery within a family drama.

For me the characters were excellent, so well-written and I could feel every single emotion that they experienced. Like most of us, I can't comprehend the enormity of what happens when a person goes missing. This book featured such a brilliant deep dive into the detail and emotional side.

I was instantly pulled in by the plot. The devastating circumstances that led to this family's journey had me completely captivated. I simply had to know what really happened.

A beautifully written book that will have you gripped from page one.

Thank you NetGalley and Faber and Faber for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you so much NetGalley for this ARC.

I absolutely adored this book. Not just the ‘mystery’ it was advertised to be, Happiness Falls digs deep into family, communication, identity, disability, and what it means to be ‘intelligent’.

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