A Country that Knows No Borders {The Underside of Joy Review}

Motherhood is a country that knows no borders. This theme ripples across Seré Prince Halverson’s debut novel, The Underside of Joy.

There may be no borders, but lines are drawn. Invisible. Legal. Lines that connect family and friends– and sometimes even strangers– one heart at a time.

The novel is told from the perspective of Ella Beene, who packed up her old life and picked up a new among the redwood trees in an idyllic Northern California town called Elbow. After a first marriage wrecked by infertility, Ella finds herself an instant family in Joe’s– a good fit for them, too, as Joe’s ex wife  Paige had abruptly and mysteriously left town months earlier.And as most things that seem too good to be true, Ella’s life with her new husband Joe and his two young children takes a heart-wrenching turn when he dies suddenly.

Before Joe’s death he had hinted at a secret: was it the dire financial straights of family business? Or was it something else, something involving Paige?

The Underside of Joy explores the complex relationship of two very different women. While Ella describes herself as “not ugly- but nothing near what I’d look like if I had a say in the matter,” Paige is a striking beauty. As a Ella finds peace in the natural world, Paige has chosen the “artificial” as a real estate home stager. But they share two important roles: they both loved the same man, and they are both mother figures to the same children. They are bound by ties of family and love and a common motherhood experience- and in the end, are there any bonds stronger than those?

This book takes readers on an emotional journey through joy and pain and love and loss. As a mother whose story echoes themes in the novel, I initially identified with Ella and feared that the story would be difficult to experience. But because of Halverson’s skill in telling Paige’s story as well, the emotional blow was softened and I came to understand her motivations.

The Underside of Joy is a beautiful, emotionally rich novel. It examines the nature of motherhood, of family. Of happiness and sorrow. It explores the complex reasons behind the choices we all make in light of our circumstances. It’s not a simple story, but of course, great love stories never are. And ultimately, that’s what The Underside of Joy is.

Click here to read other bloggers’ reviews of The Underside of Joy.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

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  1. It sounds like a richly complex piece. Right up my alley!
    Jessie Powell recently posted..FrozenMy Profile

  2. ML@My3LittleBirds says:

    I really liked it…if you couldn’t tell. Really, really good.

  3. katrina79 says:

    Wow! This must be really a great story… Thank you for sharing this review with he Underside of Joy.
    I will surely read this novel… Seems the story is great!
    katrina79 recently posted..100% All-Natural From The Earth To You Feed Your Body. Feed Your MindMy Profile

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