Saturday 22 July 2023
CBR15 Book 30: "Happy Place" by Emily Henry
Rating: 4.5 stars
CBR15 Bingo: Adulthood
15-word review: Harriet and Wyn broke up months ago, but can't tell their friends. Sexual tension follows.
Official book description:
Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.
They broke up five months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.
Which is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blissful week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.
Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week… in front of those who know you best?
I read this book at the start of May, so apologies if this review isn't as witty and informative as some of the others I occasionally write. Ms. Henry deserves a great review for her achievement, but I've just let my review backlog get bigger and bigger, so this is what she gets instead.
I picked this book for the "Adulthood" square of Cannonball Bingo because all of the characters in Happy Place, not just Harriet and Wyn, are struggling with both having to be adults and accept that sometimes things change irrevocably, and want to hold on to their happier youthful days. Their friends Sabrina, Cleo, Parth, and Kimmy are just as devastated that Sabrina's rich father is selling the cottage they've shared so many good times in, and as their last week progresses, it's becoming very clear that Harriet and Wyn aren't the only ones keeping big secrets.
Harriet has always dreamed of becoming a surgeon, but her residency in multiple hospitals is wearing her down. Wyn was miserable living with her even before he moved away months ago to take care of his grieving mother after the death of his father. So now she lives alone and barely seems to function between her various hospital shifts. Not that she's going to say any of that to Sabrina and Cleo, her best friends since college, or Parth, Sabrina's boyfriend and Wyn's former roommate, nor Kimmy, Cleo's lovely partner. The cottage in Maine is the place Harriet pictures when she's close to having a panic attack or a depressive episode, she's not going to sully her last week ever there with depressing truths about real life and struggling.
Because it's their last week there, and Sabrina and Parth have something big planned, neither Harriet nor Wyn is going to burst their bubble by revealing that they're no longer together. It would spoil the brief time they have left there. Of course, they're not the only ones lying through their teeth about how things really are, and refusing to tell their friends what their lives are really like at the moment. So many secrets bubbling under the surface, waiting to pop.
Happy Place, like People We Meet on Vacation is told in dual timelines. The book switches between the present, at the cottage in Maine, where the friends are spending one last week enjoying their dream location, and the past, where we find out how Harriet, Sabrina, and Cleo met, how they got to know Parth and Wyn, and how Cleo later introduced the group to Kimmy. Slowly, ever so gradually, we finally see how Harriet and Wyn's relationship went from being each other's perfect partners, to people who struggle to even look at each other. At the same time, the sections in the present make it very obvious that while they broke up, Harriet and Wyn still love each other and that their attraction for one another still burns very strong. I liked this a lot more than People We Meet on Vacation (my least favourite book of all Ms. Henry has written - it's perfectly fine, it just didn't resonate with me the way her others do). Nevertheless, the jumping back and forth all the time occasionally got tiresome, which is why I'm deducting half a star from its near-perfect rating.
Judging a book by its cover: The publishing industry wants you to believe that Emily Henry writes light-hearted rom-coms, despite the fact that all of her books tend to feature some pretty damaged people trying to find their own place in the world, as well as love. This bubblegum pink cover with people frolicking merrily in the water very much does not match the contents within in the slightest, with two deeply insecure individuals desperately trying to keep it together so as not to ruin their friends' happiness.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.