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Happiness Falls by Angie Kim
Literary fiction

Happiness Falls

Repeat author

Angie Kim is back at Book of the Month – other BOTMs include Miracle Creek.

Early Release

This is an early release that's only available to our members—the rest of the world has to wait to read it.

by Angie Kim

Excellent choice

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Quick take

One biracial family grapples with the meaning of happiness and their own lives when their father suddenly goes missing.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Puzzle

    Puzzle

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Cerebral

    Cerebral

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Siblings

    Siblings

Synopsis

“We didn't call the police right away.” Those are the first words of this extraordinary novel about a biracial Korean-American family in Virginia whose lives are upended when their beloved father and husband goes missing.

Mia, the irreverent, hyper analytical twenty-year-old daughter, has an explanation for everything—which is why she isn’t initially concerned when her father and younger brother Eugene don’t return from a walk in a nearby park. They must have lost their phone. Or stopped for an errand somewhere. But by the time Mia’s brother runs through the front door bloody and alone, it becomes clear that the father in this tight-knit family is missing and the only witness is Eugene, who has the rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and cannot speak.

What follows is both a ticking-clock investigation into the whereabouts of a father and an emotionally rich portrait of a family whose most personal secrets just may be at the heart of his disappearance. Full of shocking twists and fascinating questions of love, language, race, and human connection, Happiness Falls is a mystery, a family drama, and a novel of profound philosophical inquiry.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Happiness Falls.
Happiness Falls

ONE

Locke, Bach, and K-pop

We didn’t call the police right away. Later, I would blame myself, wonder if things might have turned out differently if I hadn’t shrugged it off, insisting Dad wasn’t missing missing but just delayed, probably still in the woods looking for Eugene, thinking he’d run off somewhere. Mom says it wasn’t my fault, that I was merely being optimistic, but I know better. I don’t believe in optimism. I believe there’s a fine line (if any) between optimism and willful idiocy, so I try to avoid optimism altogether, lest I fall over the line mistakenly.

My twin brother, John, keeps trying to make me feel better, too, saying we couldn’t have known something was wrong because it was such a typical morning, which is an asinine thing to say because why would you assume things can’t go wrong simply because they haven’t yet? Life isn’t geometry; terrible, life-changing moments don’t happen predictably, at the bottom of a linear slope. Tragedies and accidents are tragic and accidental precisely because of their unexpectedness. Besides, labeling anything about our family “typical”—I just have to shake my head. I’m not even thinking about the typical-adjacent stuff like John’s and my boy-girl twin thing, our biracial mix (Korean and white), untraditional parental gender roles (working mom, stay-at-home dad), or different last names (Parson for Dad + Park for Mom = the mashed-up Parkson for us kids)—not common, certainly, but hardly shocking in our area these days. Where we’re indubitably, inherently atypical is with my little brother Eugene’s dual diagnosis: autism and a rare genetic disorder called mosaic Angelman syndrome (AS), which means he can’t talk, has motor difficulties, and—this is what fascinates many people who’ve never heard of AS—has an unusually happy demeanor with frequent smiles and laughter.

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Why I love it

To say that Happiness Falls is a riveting mystery with unexpected twists that keep the pages flying would be absolutely true. It would also be a vast undersell of this brilliant, moving book.

In Angie Kim’s second novel, the greatest mysteries lie hidden in the long-held and fervently believed stories a family tells itself about who they are. Kim offers the reader not only an intricate puzzle about a missing father but a deeply layered study of the innate biases that cloud our ability to see situations clearly. It questions how well any of us understands each other, or even ourselves, and how profoundly wrong our most cherished beliefs can be.

To unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance, Mia Parkson, a hyper-analytical college student, must examine not only how well she knew her father but her assumptions about her nonspeaking little brother, Eugene, a fourteen year old diagnosed with autism and Angelman syndrome. She—as well as her twin brother and mother—must face the suffering they have inflicted by their ignorance. It is only in opening their hearts to the possibility of their own unintended cruelties that they can discover peace and begin to unravel the even greater mystery of where happiness might reside.

Given our world today, so fractured with fierce certainties, Happiness Falls is a book that expands the heart and offers more angles of view. It is a beautiful and important work.

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Member ratings (9,905)

  • Brett A.

    New York, NY

    One of the most unique, stirring stories I’ve read in a long time. Kim’s novel will make you question your basic assumptions about speaking, happiness and family in this incredible book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Melanie C.

    Long Beach, CA

    The synopsis of this book doesn’t even touch on how engrossing, intelligent and beautiful this book is. It made me think and feel at the same time, which doesn’t always happen with books. ❤️ ❤️❤️❤️

  • Jamie G.

    Deerfield, IL

    Gripping! Unlike anything I’ve read. The writing is brilliant and the philosophical questions raised made this story mesmerizing. Wanted more resolution but this was an incredible book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

  • Kyle Q.

    Indianapolis, IN

    “Happiness Falls” is one of the most thought provoking reads I’ve experienced in a long time. Full of heart, twists, and family love, you will fall for this novel and be better off because you read it

  • Sam O.

    Fitchburg, MA

    4.5 ⭐️Mia is a curious, savvy, and perfect narrator for this mystery. This book is a great mix of philosophy, mystery, & education on some important topics. One of the best books i’ve read in awhile.

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