Reviewed by Anne Day:
Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family - a Thai wife and two kids living in Queens. In the aftermath of this revelation, Ethan's mother spends a year travelling abroad, returning much changed, just as her now ex-husband falls ill. Across town, Ethan's half-brothers are caught in their own complicated journeys: one brother's penchant for minor delinquency has escalated and the other must travel to Bangkok to bail him out, while the bargains their mother struck about love and money continue to shape all their lives.
As Ethan finds himself caught in a love triangle of his own, the interwoven fates of these two households elegantly unfurl to touch many other figures, revealing secret currents of empathy and loyalty, the bounty of improvised families and the paradoxical ties that weave through life's rich contours. With a generous and humane spirit, Secrets of Happiness elucidates the ways people marshal the resources at hand in an effort to find joy.
A tightly plotted, brilliantly executed account of two families whose lives intersect in unexpected ways.
Joan Silber is the author of nine books of fiction. Her last book, Improvement, was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award and was listed as one of the year's best books by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Newsday, the Seattle Times and Kirkus Reviews. She lives in New York.