Happy Like This

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Pub Date 15 Oct 2019 | Archive Date 15 Oct 2019
University of Iowa Press, University Of Iowa Press

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The characters in Happy Like This are smart girls and professional women—social scientists, linguists, speech therapists, plant physiologists, dancers—who search for happiness in roles and relationships that are often unscripted or unconventional. In the midst of their ambivalence about marriage, monogamy, and motherhood and their struggles to accept and love their bodies, they look to other women for solidarity, stability, and validation. Sometimes they find it; sometimes they don’t. Spanning a wide range of distinct perspectives, voices, styles, and settings, the ten shimmering stories in Happy Like This offer deeply felt, often humorous meditations on the complexity of choice and the ambiguity of happiness.

The characters in Happy Like This are smart girls and professional women—social scientists, linguists, speech therapists, plant physiologists, dancers—who search for happiness in roles and...

Advance Praise

“I love these dark, lyrical, sinewy stories about women’s relationships with their bodies and with each other. It’s the sort of theme that could feel irritably well-trod, but that’s not the case here at all; these stories surprised me at every turn. And the writing is so gorgeous!”—Carmen Maria Machado, judge, 2019 John Simmons Short Fiction Award

“Equal parts graceful and astonishing, the stories in Ashley Wurzbacher’s debut collection do the brave work of building upon established traditions to create worlds and languages all their own. The result is a sweeping, insightful, and compassionate portrait not only of women’s lives, losses, and loves, but of their anger, its power, and the fierce sisterhood forged between those who express it.”—Allie Rowbottom, author, JELL-O Girls

“Rumor has it that Alice Munro in responding to the question ‘Do you consider yourself a feminist?’, replied thusly: ‘If you mean do I take the lives of women seriously, yes.’ Ashley Wurzbacher’s wonderful collection of stories made me think of that writer, and that answer, repeatedly. I love this book.”—Antonya Nelson, author, Funny Once

“I fell in love with these stories from page one. Happy Like This is a funny, touching catalog of women’s generosity toward each other and themselves, of the secrets we need to keep, and the paths we must take in order to live more fully. A powerhouse of a collection.”—Danielle Lazarin, author, Back Talk

“What a gorgeous, varied, brilliant, and accomplished collection of stories. On every page, moments of truth and beauty so perfectly, easily, and indelibly rendered in lines to make you catch your breath and wish to read them over and over. A must read!”—Gregory Spatz, author, Inukshuk

“I love these dark, lyrical, sinewy stories about women’s relationships with their bodies and with each other. It’s the sort of theme that could feel irritably well-trod, but that’s not the case here...

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ISBN 9781609386832
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Featured Reviews

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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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 would like to thank University of Iowa Press and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of Ashley Wurzbacher’s <i>Happy Like This</i>, 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. <i>Happy Like This</i> 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 <i>Happy Like This</i> 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 <i>Happy Like This</i>, 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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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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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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