Two scientists, one an American naturalist who’s studying the lifeway of the urban fox, the other a Ghanaian psychiatrist who’s studying the impact of trauma on the brain, on human behavior, collide, literally, on a bridge in London. That collision is figurative as well as literal, however, since their encounter creates not just a connection but an unraveling, a re-raveling, that has consequences for them both. All of which sounds neat and tidy but like life, there is nothing tidy or neat about this intriguing, sometimes touching, often funny tale, weaving as it does an ardent chase down urban streets in search of a fox, of a missing child, of an old love, with a search for truth through the muddiness of misinformed beliefs and convictions. Happiness is a skillfully constructed, wonderfully written and complicated novel but also a fast-moving one; I couldn’t put it down and I can’t quit thinking about it.— From Betsy Burton
"Throughout Happiness, Forna stops in our tracks . . . Reminiscent at times of Michael Ondaatje's novel Anil's Ghost . . . Happiness is a meditation on grand themes: Love and death, man and nature, cruelty and mercy. But Forna folds this weighty matter into her buoyant creation with a sublimely delicate touch."--Washington Post
London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide--Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech. From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna's unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments of connection.
Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his "niece" who hasn't called home in a while. Ama has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.
When, by chance, Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the network of rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens--mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London--come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds.
Meanwhile a consulting case causes Attila to question the impact of his own ideas on trauma, the values of the society he finds himself in, and a grief of his own. In this delicate tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, Forna asks us to consider the interconnectedness of lives, our co-existence with one another and all living creatures, and the true nature of happiness.
About the Author
Aminatta Forna is the author of the novels Ancestor Stones, The Memory of Love, and The Hired Man, as well as the memoir The Devil That Danced on the Water. Forna's books have been translated into sixteen languages. Her essays have appeared in Granta, The Guardian, The Observer, and Vogue. She is currently the Lannan Visiting Chair of Poetics at Georgetown University.