Nobody's Perfect: The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson

Note: This is a sponsored review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. Sere Prince Halverson’s first novel opens with the sudden death of the protagonists husband. At first glance I thought this novel would be about the journey of grief, but death is just the beginning of a crisis that isn't always what it seems. This book is about the truths that lie beneath the surface.

One of the major themes of the book is the breaking of unhealthy family patterns and Halverson manages it masterfully. The principal plot point is a heart wrenching custody battle in which everybody is right and everybody is wrong. As the novel progresses Halverson uncovers slowly the motivations and anxieties of each character, showing us the tragedies that shaped them and the desperate, dysfunctional and disparate ways they are fighting not to repeat their own histories. Despite its heavy subject matter, this is essentially a hopeful novel. By the end you are cheering the characters on, urging them to be brave enough to trust each other and make things right.

A second principal theme is the question of what it means to be a good mother. As an adoptive mother myself it’s a question I've wrestled with myself quite often and I appreciate that the book brings up topics such as postpartum depression, psychosis, step-parenting and adoption in a way that is evenhanded and fair. There is so much talk about “bad mothers” it is nice to see a work that explores the different ways to be a good mother.

This book is not perfect, I found some of the dialogue to sound a bit unnatural but overall I enjoyed it immensely and I’ve found myself thinking about the themes even after I finished. The sure sign it’s a worthy investment of your reading time.

To learn more about the Underside of Joy and join in on the BlogHer bookclub. Click here.

Posted on January 18, 2012 and filed under Book Reviews, Bossy Pants Recommends.