Happiness (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Award-winning author Aminatta Forna has been called “[a] writer of startling talent,” (Daily Telegraph, UK) and the Independent (UK) has raved that “[Forna’s] prose quietly grips us by the throat and then tightens its hold. It is storytelling at its most taut.” Now in her new novel Happiness, Forna’s unerring powers of observation reveal the numerous instances of connection that undergird the rush of a great city.
During a visit to London, a Ghanaian psychiatrist named Attila collides with Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes. Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his “niece,” Ama, who hasn’t called home in a while. Ama has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing. When Attila happens to run into Jean again, she mobilizes the neighborhood trash collectors she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens—mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London—come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds. Meanwhile a consulting case causes Attila to question the impact of his own ideas on trauma, the values of the society he finds himself in, and a grief of his own.
In this masterful tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, Forna asks us to consider the interconnectedness of lives, our coexistence with one another and all living creatures, and the true nature of happiness.
Praise for Happiness
“From the understated and inexorable pull of plot and emotion to the luxuriousness of the details of varied ways of living and being to the tidal pull of language, Happiness is a great accomplishment.”—Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees
“Piercingly empathetic, Forna’s latest explores instinct, resilience, and the complexity of human coexistence, reaffirming her reputation for exceptional ability and perspective.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The overarching message tucked into Scottish and Sierra Leonian writer Forna’s quietly resonant novel is this: Every living thing is the net sum of its history, and we carry the weight of our past on our shoulders.…Intricately woven…Forna’s novel is ultimately a mesmerizing tale studded with exquisite writing.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Aminatta Forna expertly weaves her characters’ stories, past and present, in and out of the larger story of London, which becomes as rich a character as the human beings and, indeed, the foxes; and she makes us care deeply about them all, the foxes, the people and the city. A terrific novel.”—Salman Rushdie, author of Midnight’s Children
“Happiness is one of the best novels I’ve read in quite a while—intelligent, deep, and poignant. It sheds smooth, unflinching light upon the unseen. Forna is at the top of her game.”—Rabih Alameddine, author of An Unnecessary Woman
“Happiness is a deeply moving novel about love, trauma, and the ties that bind us together. Beautifully written and ingeniously allegorical. Aminatta Forna is a writer of phenomenal talent, with a clear eye, a fearless voice, and an extraordinary range.”—Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account
“Aminatta Forna has crafted a complex and deeply human story. African in its worldview of convergence and simultaneity, yet universal in its range of possibility and choice. Nuanced and delightful, this story takes place inside the reader’s own nostalgia. Gorgeous.” –Chris Abani, The Secret History of Las Vegas
Aminatta Forna is the author of the novels Ancestor Stones, The Commonwealth Writers Prize-winning The Memory of Love, and The Hired Man, as well as the memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water. Forna’s books have been translated into sixteen languages and she is the recipient of the Windham-Campbell Literature Prize. In addition, she has been a judge for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Caine Prize, and the Man Booker International Prize. Her essays have appeared in Granta, The Guardian, The Observer, and Vogue. Forna is currently the Lannan Foundation Chair in Poetics at Georgetown University.
Photo by Nina Subin
Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States. She is the author of the novels Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award; Secret Son, which was on the Orange Prize longlist; and The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. It was on the Man Booker Prize longlist and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Her essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, The Nation, the Guardian, the New York Times, and in many anthologies. She writes the “Between the Lines” column for The Nation magazine and is a critic-at-large for the Los Angeles Times. The recipient of a British Council Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, she is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside.