Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: "The Underside of Joy" by Sere Prince Halverson

Ella Beene appears to be living the perfect life. Unable to have children with her ex-husband and left with a marriage that has fallen apart as a result, Ella finds herself wandering across the country aimlessly and happens upon the handsome Joe Capozzi in the idyllic town of Elbow, California. Joe was recently abandoned by his wife, Paige, leaving him the single father of three-year-old Annie and six-month-old Zach. Ella and Joe quickly fall in love, Ella falls in love with his children, and the four find themselves forming a makeshift happy family. Fast forward three years later and Joe breaks his own rule of never turning his back on the ocean and drowns when a particularly large wave overtakes him. Ella welcomes parenting Annie and Zach on her own, given the fact that they have not heard from their biological mother since she left and seeing how much Ella loves them, but when the mysterious Paige suddenly reappears and demands full custody of the children that she doesn't even know, Ella must fight to keep those that she loves close while discovering the secrets that her family has kept buried for so long.

The Underside of Joy is a fascinating story, one that had me frantically reading through the final pages to find out what would happen. Contrary to what one may think at first glance, this is not a story about good versus evil, or biological motherhood versus step-motherhood. It is a story about loving your children so much that you would do absolutely anything for them, regardless of whose belly they grew in. The story is so current, given that families come in so many different shapes and sizes today.

If I had to describe my love for my children in one word, I would use the word "fierce". I would do absolutely anything for my children, and heaven help me if anyone were to hurt my children emotionally. Ella's love for Annie and Zach in The Underside of Joy could certainly be described as fierce love. She loves those children with every fibre of her being and when Paige threatens to take them away from her, Ella physically aches. At times I found the book difficult to read, only because it brought out so much painful emotion from inside of me as I envisioned myself in Ella's position. I am not a stepparent, but I am a parent, and Sere Prince Halverson does an amazing job of writing about something that would turn any parent's world upside down.

At times surprising, at other times sad, and compelling throughout, The Underside of Joy is a book that I don't hesitate to recommend. You do not need to be a parent or a stepparent to enjoy it, you simply need to agree that sometimes there is more to a story than first appears.

My thanks to the publicist for providing me with the opportunity to review this novel.