Thursday, February 23, 2012

My take on: The Underside of Joy

"We all break the surface into this life already howling the cries of our ancestors, bearing their DNA, their eye colors and their scars, their glory and their shame. It is theirs; it is ours. It is the underside of joy." Pg. 303

There is a point in everyone's life when you think you have it all. The house, the marriage, the kids, the career and the social life. Nothing can bring you down. You think everything is perfect. But what happens when everything comes crashing down? That's the big question in The Underside of Joy by Seré Prince Halverson.

Ella Beene found her happiness when she married Joe Capozzi. A failed marriage and several miscarriages left Ella going aimlessly through life. The quest for a better life led Ella to the small town of Elbow, California. A town where everyone knows each other. A sense of family is really important. Ella not only married Joe, but she also married his extended family, which includes his two children Annie and Zach. Their mother, Paige, abandoned the family three years earlier. She was in such a deep depression, she had to leave. No one in the Capozzi family tried to understand Paige's reason for leaving. Ella filled a void that was missing for Annie and Zach, and the children filled a void that was missing for Ella. She knows everything about them. Their smell. Their likes and dislikes. She is their mother.

What really makes a parent? Is it DNA? Or is it an emotional connection? That all comes into question when Joe dies. Paige reappears out of the blue right after Joe's death. The timing was highly suspect. How about some respect for the dead? Ella's feelings didn't seem to matter to Paige. Ella is in mourning and so are the children. Their pain didn't seem to be a big concern for Paige. What she wants is paramount. The pain she feels is more important. Ella is a very emotional person, but she tries to keep her pain inside. The children seem to want a relationship with Paige, but Ella is unsure of what to say. Does she encourage this relationship? If Ella pushes too hard or too soft, she could damage her relationship with the children.

Paige wants more than just a few stolen moments with the children, she wants custody. She maintains she was always in contact with them. Over the course of three years, she wrote dozens of letters to the children. Ella insists those letters don't exist. Or do they? Upon Joe's death, Ella learned so many things she didn't know before. He hid the truth about their financial situation. The family store was going failing right under Ella's nose. His family has a history of keeping secrets. Rather than face the truth, they choose not to talk about the past. It was a learned behavior for Joe. In my opinion, he let her believe in a lie. Rather than letting her know the truth, Joe led her to believe everything was Ok. Maybe it was his way of protecting Ella, but shouldn't that have been her choice? Why did he get to choose? It was a marriage. Ella begins to question whether or not she truly knew Joe.

This was an emotional roller coaster. You can see both sides of the issue. Ella has done more for the children than Paige has. She is the only parent they have left. How can a judge even consider disrupting their lives further. But Paige was very sick. She didn't have a word for what was wrong. She sought help, learning she had postpartum depression, before she became a danger to the children. That should be commended. That is being a parent. She chose to get her mind right in order to be a better parent. She did what was best for the children at the time. But does that mean, Paige should never be allowed a second chance? Of course she should. This world would be so different if people didn't get second chances. By the end of the book, I was wishing I could know more about these characters. I was attached to them, and by the end there is hope for them.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Penguin) at the request of KMSPR

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