Lyrical and Thought-Provoking

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katie_lew Avatar


3.5 stars, rounded up! With Like Happiness, the author pens a gentle tale about re-examining one's past, and coming to terms with the negative experiences that can form us.

Our narrator is Tatum, a young woman looking back on her long-standing but now broken relationship with a celebrated author, which had carried her through much of her young-adulthood. Told in dueling timelines (a letter looking back at her past, with snippets from her present-day life), the book does a lovely job of capturing true intersectionality. Tatum is wrestling with her identity--as a woman, as a Latina, as someone who grew up economically struggling, as someone who isn't sure of (and never formally labels) her sexuality. After writing a fan letter to the author of her favorite book, fan and writer strike up a friendship that crosses numerous boundaries, in ways that aren't as simple as "grooming" or even abuse. The story builds until we learn the events that ultimately drove Tatum to break off the relationship and to flee her life in New York City for a new start in Chile.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many tales have been told about women and men re-evaluating relationships they've had, and the haziness of consent when there's a clear power-imbalance in the relationship. This book introduces a brand-new twist to the examination of power and privilege, and readers hearts will break as Tatum comes face to face with her longtime love's ultimate betrayal.

I did remove a star due to the fact that the story really stops once we learn the details that drove Tatum and M. apart. The four years between the decimation of their relationship and the events of present day are obscured almost completely. The author chooses to keep the focus on "how she got there" rather than "where she is now," and the book suffers slightly for it. I'd rather learn how the events drove her to rebuilt herself and her life, rather than just learn about her suffering and heartbreak. That said, this is a lovely and powerful novel and well worth the read.

Many thanks to Celadon Books and Goodreads for the Advanced Readers Copy!