Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: Chick Lit, contemporary romance, relationship fiction, women's fiction
Published by Berkley on April 25, 2023
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org, Better World Books
Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.
They broke up six months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.
Which is how they find themselves sharing the largest bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blue week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.
Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week… in front of those who know you best?
A couple who broke up months ago make a pact to pretend to still be together for their annual weeklong vacation with their best friends in this glittering and wise new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Emily Henry.
Ironically, Harriet’s “happy place” isn’t all that happy when she arrives – no matter how much everyone, including Harriet, tries to recapture the happiness they all always feel when they get there.
Once upon a time, all the way at the beginning of their freshman year at Mattingly College, the algorithm that matches up roommates matched three girls who, on the surface, couldn’t have been more different.
A serendipitous match that gave Harriet, Cleo and Sabrina the ‘sisters from another mister’ that none of them had ever had. They belonged together in a way that was so profound that it took them through college, graduate school, and beyond, culminating every summer at Lobster Fest in a tiny coastal town in Maine where Sabrina’s extended birth and step-family owned a gigantic, fully stocked summer house. (Honestly, more like a summer mansion or a compound. It’s vast and sprawling and perfect – except for one teensy little problem which we’ll get to in a minute.)
Every summer, the girls share one fantastic week together, a tradition that has not wavered as they have each found other roommates, friends and lovers along life’s way. As this summer visit begins, the three have been six for several years, and they are all thirty years old or on the cusp of it.
Sabrina, the great organizer of the group, has pulled them all together – in spite of more than one person’s reluctance – because this is going to be the last summer of their happy place. Her dad has sold the house.
But that’s not the only rain on this particular parade. On the one hand, there’s the good news that Sabrina and her lover, Parth, are getting married that weekend, on the beach near the house, with all their besties around them.
Sabrina and Parth’s good news – if it actually happens – is overshadowed by whatever is eating at Cleo and her girlfriend Kimmy – which is in its turn eating at Sabrina. Harriet, in the second year of a medical residency, has pushed everyone away, partly out of exhaustion but mostly in denial over her own depressing secret.
A secret that greets her at the door, when her long-term ex-fiance is waiting, intending to help her keep up the deception that they are still together. When they’re not. And haven’t been for several months but haven’t managed to tell anyone.
Because they fear it will affect the dynamic of the group – a group which has become a family they both need – whether separately or together.
And because they don’t really want to let each other go – no matter how much they each believe the other is better off without them.
Escape Rating B+: I went into Happy Place hoping for another Book Lovers – which I utterly adored. When I didn’t get that, I found this to be a tough read for most of its length, but now that I’ve finished the book I keep thinking about it and it’s turning out to be one of those cases where the whole is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts.
The story as it progresses seemed like a giant misunderstandammit for the longest time. But the thing about those kinds of books is that what makes them so awkward is that it’s obvious to the reader that all it would take would be one frank conversation to clear up the mess.
That’s not true here. While a bit of frankness would go a long way, it would take WAY more than one conversation to clear things up. All of them are bottling up how they really feel or what is really going on in order to keep the peace – and it’s not working for anyone.
Just as occurred in Book Lovers, this mess needs to build up to an explosion for that air to get cleared. It just takes a week of heating up before it all boils over.
On top of that, what really got to me about this story as I looked back at it was just that, the looking back. Because this is the last summer at their ‘happy place’ they are all aware that an era is ending. That, in combination with all of them turning 30 this year, makes all of them realize that life is changing and that this family that sustains all of them could come to an end if they don’t figure things out and learn to adapt to the changes they are all going through.
And yet, with the secrets hanging over them, they are in danger of not figuring things out. With all the nostalgia on tap on this trip, and with all of the music they play because it is the background of their lives together, (and because they mention Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” playing on the radio) I realized that this is the summer where they are all aware that whatever happens next for any of them, the years they spent together are the “Glory Days” they will be looking back on for the rest of their lives.
The question in the story is whether they can get beyond what’s driving them apart to find a new way to hold each other together – no matter where the future takes each of them.
In the end, I didn’t love Happy Place the way I did Book Lovers. But once I finished I realized that I liked it quite a bit more than I initially thought!