The Underside of Joy

The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson was the second book I read for Blogher Book Club.  To read a brief summary of the overall plot of the book, check out the book club page here.

So far, the books I have been sent to read for book club are 2 for 2 in terms of approval.  I cannot praise The Underside of Joy enough. Please read this book. I absolutely recommend it. Honestly, when I sat down to read The Underside of Joy, I was a bit nervous. I had just finished The Hunger Games trilogy in record time and was completely captivated by all things Katniss, Peeta, and District 13. And that is a hard act to follow, but that is another story for another day.

Initially with The Underside of Joy I thought it would be easy to pick a side. Clearly Ella would prevail in any custody battle as she had completely taken over the role of “mom” after their birth mom abandoned them.  But, Sere, the author, throws a twist into the story.  She lets her readers get to know Paige and all the struggles she has encountered.  You can’t help but empathize with Paige, eventually letting you see things through her perspective. And quite quickly, my once clear idea of who should be the legal mother of Annie and Zach became very blurred.

Both women had to overcome serious obstacles in becoming a mother. Ella struggled with infertility in her prior marriage, while Paige not only suffered from severe post-partum depression, but was a victim of it. One of the prevalent themes throughout the novel was the differences in Ella and Paige.  All Ella ever wanted was to be a mother, while there was a time when Paige wanted nothing to do with her children.  Ella described herself as not necessarily beautiful, more in touch with the natural side of things, while Paige was quite stunning and staged homes for a living, dealing constantly with materiality. However, both of these women shared a similar love for Annie and Zach.  Both were deserving of being their mother.
I finished The Underside of Joy in two days, staying up one night until 3am because I could not put it down.  It is a quick read, easy to follow, but also captures your emotions. It reminds you that there are always two sides to every story, but doesn’t condemn you for perhaps casting premature judgement. It will absolutely tug at your heartstrings, and you will feel a connection with the characters, feeling that you know them personally. And at the end, if you are anything like me, you will be satisfied, but of course, wanting a few more pages because you aren’t quite ready to let them go.

*This was a paid review for Blogher Book Club. All opinions expressed in the review are my own.*

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