Happiness, a novel
Waterloo Bridge, London. Two strangers collide. Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist, and Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes. From this chance encounter in the midst of the rush of a great city, numerous moments of connections span out and interweave, bringing disparate lives together.
Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma and to check up on the daughter of friends, his 'niece,' Ama, who hasn't called home in a while. It soon emerges that she has been swept up in an immigration crackdown—and now her young son Tano is missing. When, by chance, Attila bumps into Jean again, she joins him in his search for Tano, mobilizing into action the network she has built up, mainly from the many West African immigrants working London's myriad streets, of volunteer fox-spotters: security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens. All unite to help and as the search continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds.
In this delicate yet powerful novel of loves lost and new, of past griefs and of the hidden side of a multicultural metropolis, Aminatta Forna asks us to consider the values of the society we live in, our co-existence with one another and all living creatures—and the true nature of happiness.
Reviews and Praise for Happiness
"Forna's sensitive novel is non-ostentatious yet compelling, and whether writing of Attila's victims of conflict and terror or Jean's birds and mammals, she offers wisdom and perspective, which is further extended to the possibility of romance between two questing strangers. Low-key yet piercingly empathetic, Forna's latest explores instinct, resilience, and the complexity of human coexistence, reaffirming her reputation for exceptional ability and perspective." Kirkus Reviews (Starred)
"Happiness is both a love story and an exploration of the potential for trauma to cause not just damage, but resilience." BBC, 'Ten Books to Read in 2018'
"Aminatta Forna's latest novel, Happiness, tells the story of Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist, and Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes. It's a powerfully affecting examination of the immigrant experience and turns upon the disappearance of a child on London's dark and unforgiving streets." The Guardian/Observer, 'Best Fiction for 2018'
"It is a novel that carries a tremendous sense of the world, where I looked up upon finishing and sensed a shift in what I thought I knew, what I wanted to know. What a gift." The Millions, 'Most Anticipate Books of 2018'
"Aminatta Forna has crafted a complex and deeply human story. African in its worldview of convergence and simultaneity, yet universal in its range of possibility and choice. Nuanced and delightful, this story takes place inside the reader's own nostalgia. Gorgeous." Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas
"Aminatta Forna expertly weaves her characters' stories, past and present, in and out of the larger story of London, which becomes as rich a character as the human beings and, indeed, the foxes; and she makes us care deeply about them all, the foxes, the people and the city. A terrific novel." Salman Rushdie
"One of the best novels I've read in quite a while—intelligent, deep and poignant. It sheds smooth, unflinching light upon the unseen. Forna is at the top of her game." Rabih Alameddine, author of The Angel of History and An Unnecessary Woman
"From the understated and inexorable pull of plot and emotion to the luxuriousness of the details of varied ways of living and being to the tidal pull of language, Happiness is a great accomplishment." Viet Thanh Nguyen
"A deeply moving novel about love, trauma and the ties that bind us together. Beautifully written and ingeniously allegorical. Aminatta Forna is a writer of phenomenal talent, with a clear eye, a fearless voice, and an extraordinary range." Laila Lalami, author of The Moor's Account
"Her prose quietly grips us by the throat and then tightens its hold. It is storytelling at its most taut ... A gifted writer." Independent
"The best writer of fiction in this field ... The intelligence of Forna's storytelling is testament to a woman who has deep emotional resources." Evening Standard
"A fresh, immaculate stylist and an unsparing chronicler of human vices ... Profound." The Times