cover image Happiness Falls

Happiness Falls

Angie Kim. Hogarth, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-44820-5

Kim’s bittersweet second novel (following Miracle Creek) intertwines an intimate family drama, a missing-persons mystery, and a philosophical rumination on happiness. Korean American college student Mia Parkson and her twin brother, John, are spending the Covid-19 lockdown at their parents’ house in suburban Virginia. One morning, their autistic 14-year-old brother, Eugene, races home from a hike with their father, his clothing spattered with blood. Their father is nowhere to be found, and Eugene—who is nonverbal—isn’t able to say what happened. While Mia and her family help authorities sift a bewildering array of clues, Mia studies analytical notes her father left behind, which posit that the experience of happiness is relative to an expected outcome—leading her to wonder whether her father is subjecting them all to an elaborate social experiment. Meanwhile, the Parksons investigate therapies Eugene has been undergoing that suggest they have underestimated his intelligence and ability to communicate—a revelation that dovetails with Mia’s own complex thoughts on how factors including race, language, and emotion all impact people’s interpretation of information and ability to relate to one another. Readers will be fascinated with how Kim bends the structure of a whodunit to serve a broader exploration of the dynamics of human relations and moved by her skill at wresting joy from tragedy. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Sept.)