Secrets of Happiness

Counterpoint. May 2021. 288p. ISBN 9781640094451. $27. F
What do we need to be happy? Love? Money? Work? Family? In her latest work Silber (Improvement) takes on the question with her usual deft touch, without ever addressing it head-on. Beginning with Ethan, a young Manhattan lawyer who discovers that his father has a second family, Silber unspools a web of lovers, siblings, parents, and children, from Greenwich Village to Bangkok, whose searches for fulfillment ripple outward in unexpected ways. From the entanglements of Ethan’s half-brothers in Queens, to his new boyfriend’s dying ex whose sister watches them care for him warily even as she rekindles an old flame, to a young filmmaker living with her mother’s regrets and her sister’s capriciousness, each set of choices—infidelity, caretaking, the rejection of parents’ values and money, the work to build an extended family based on love and loyalty—affects the others in ways both subtle and large. Silber moves easily in and out of her characters’ heads; the novel is deceptively airy, yet, given a reflective reading, it has an ethical center without the shortcut of easy morality.
VERDICT Silber’s fans, and readers who enjoy smart, humane contemporary fiction that doesn’t talk down to them, will enjoy this work.
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