"Driven by the mystery around a missing father, with a non-speaking autistic teenager and his siblings at its core, this remarkable novel explores family bonds, communication and happiness."
In part, Angie Kim’s Happiness Falls is a missing-person novel, but definitely not as you know them. It’s also a richly compassionate, multi-layered story of family bonds and communication. But, again, not in the way you’d expect.
Playing out across 100 days after a stay-at-home dad goes missing during the COVID pandemic, it’s narrated by 20-year-old Mia, as she and her family try to uncover the mystery around her missing father, with her 14-year-old, non-speaking brother Eugene the only witness to his disappearance. As Kim highlights in her Author’s Note, “Just because you can’t speak doesn’t mean you can’t think or understand.”
From the opening lines, I was gripped by Mia’s voice, when her “untraditional family” (her parents are bi-racial, Korean and white; she’s one of a twin; non-speaking Eugene has autism and Angelman syndrome) realise her dad has gone missing. Often, Mia’s voice is snort-out-loud comic, with doses of dark humour coming courtesy of her outlandish stream-of-consciousness conjuration of reasons for the vanishing.
As Mia and her twin uncover clues, the police believe Eugene is implicated. Then follows appalling treatment at the hands of the authorities — words and actions that, in Mia’s words, “destroyed his humanity.” What eventually comes to light will truly stop you in your tracks, and crack your heart before filling it to the brim with empathy. Compelling, funny and thought-provoking, I fell for Happiness Falls hook, line and sinker.