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The Sad Truth About Happiness: A Novel

2.96  ·  Rating Details ·  401 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
A beautiful and affecting novel -- bittersweet and comic -- on the elusive nature of happiness

Maggie is in her early thirties, gainfully employed, between relationships, and ready for a change. But when she takes a quiz in a magazine that promises to predict the date of a person's death, she's shocked to learn she's going to die before her next birthday unless she can some
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 1st 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2005)
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Ilse Snell
Jun 13, 2010 Ilse Snell rated it did not like it
The more I think about the errors in the book, the more I just want to slap Anne Giardini for subjecting people to her writing at all.
Alas, I was in a forgiving mood at the time when I started reading it and could be lenient to common first time author mistakes.
But then it started escalating, and snow balling into a disaster waiting to happen.
Maggie’s character flaws (and by character flaws, I don’t mean a character which I merely don’t like, I mean a character which has been created with a fu
Lucie Bluebird
Apr 30, 2012 Lucie Bluebird rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Ms. Giardini's command of the English language is brilliant. Her words are like an artist's brush, and with each one she adds a new dimension to her work.

I find it interesting that some reviewers have commented on the "plot twist," because that twist is clearly laid out in the book's jacket description. I spent the book wondering what could possibly happen in Maggie's life to cause this twist.

In the end, I didn't find it so improbable. The "improbable" part relates
Aug 19, 2010 Catherine rated it it was ok
I so love the title of this book that I hoped the content would follow but it was not meant to be. Giardini writes simple statements in a way that catch in your mind and that should be enough but the plot of this book takes such simplicity to improbable heights. And there I was lost.

If the book had begun as a flight of fancy or whimsy with extravagent circumstances then I could have accepted it but when you contrast some one who performs mammograms and the pathos that situation can engender and
Kris - My Novelesque Life

"The first novel - bittersweet and comic - on the elusive nature of happiness, from the eldest daughter of novelist Carol Shields. Maggie, the 31-year-old middle child who is just a little too predictable, is ready for change - but not the kind that swoops down on her in The Sad Truth about Happiness. Maggie's roommate Rebecca devises questionnaires for women's magazines, and she is convinced her newest one can predict the exact date of death of anyone who answers the questions honestly
Feb 16, 2015 Mary rated it it was ok
I did make it to the end of this book though I thought of putting it down several times. Overall I found it overly descriptive and the genre was a bit confused- the book seemed to start out heavy on the character studies and introspective route and then attempted some action. The action was very jumpy--- the main character kidnapped her newborn nephew from her sister for a week to "protect him" from his possible father, she then brought him back, accidentally gave him directly to his dad and the ...more
Nov 05, 2015 HelenJ rated it it was ok
I found this book overly descriptive written, and the plot amusingly ridiculous. I skimmed most of the book as I could not settle into it. Since it was a book club pick I didn't abandon it though. The last chapter I slowed down and indulged in the beautiful descriptions of the Pacific at Tofino, and the happiness she found in her home, garden, family, etc. Wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Will be interesting in Jan. to see what the others have to say. I must admit I read it between 2 WW1 books a ...more
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Janet Coutts
Jul 26, 2008 Janet Coutts rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
It must be hell to be Carol Shields' daughter and a writer. In fact, if I were Anne Giardini, I wouldn't admit who my mother was, no matter how much I loved her as a writer and as a parent. Not to say that Giardini is not an good writer (she is), but her mother was brilliant.
I'm nearly halfway through the book, and really liking the women in it, even the difficult ones.
I love Carol Shields' Stone Diaries so much, and I would prefer just to enjoy this book on its own merits. However, I did apprec
Apr 24, 2012 Shannon rated it really liked it
Shelves: can-lit
Overall, 'The Sad Truth About Happiness' is definitely a book worth reading. I was intrigued by the premise: protagonist Maggie (a thirty-something single woman) takes a magazine quiz - a quiz which promises to predict longevity. Maggie's negative response to the last question - 'Are you happy?' - completely alters the quiz result. In fact, the quiz predicts that she has only three months to live.

I felt a strong connection to Maggie as she ruminated over the elusive nature of happiness. I parti
Sep 05, 2007 Sue rated it liked it
This book is written by a (female)lawyer, takes place in Canada (Vancouver, specifically, one of my favorite cities) and is published in Great Britain. I checked it out from the library because I liked the cover & title.
Another review says it's not recommended because it takes a bizarre twist & never returns to normal. I tend tolike books like that (see review of Bee Season) - isn't life like that really?
The writing style is unusual in a good way - the author has control of the changes o
Jun 24, 2016 Ari rated it really liked it
"Lyrical sentences"

The lasting impression for this book is that it is beautifully written with lyrical sentences. I am definitely amazed to the amount of poetic words that could be used to describe a simple sunset - admiration for Giardini's talent. Storyline-wise, it is not very convincing and quite pessimistic. This book gives you a feelings that happiness is hard to come by, but on the other hand it could also be very simple.
Nov 26, 2012 Jenny rated it liked it
This book is beautifully written.

Giardini even throws in a reference to her mom in the book - pretty clever!

Some people have alluded to the "plot twist." I hate when back covers of books give away a major plot point. The custody issue happens 2/3 of the way through the book and isn't really what powers the book.

In fact, I'm not sure what exactly powers the book. It reads almost like a collection of short stories the way some chapters seem to refer back to a childhood story, like Rachel's cancer
Leanne Fournier
Feb 18, 2015 Leanne Fournier rated it liked it
Very cleverly told story. It was the right book for me to read as I struggled through the early stages of burnout. It frankly helped to pull me through the other side. For that it was indeed a good read.
Jessie Qi
May 30, 2015 Jessie Qi rated it liked it
It was okay. I really enjoyed the beginning but the plot twist was unexpectedly bad.

The book left me craving more of the characters but also wanting to erase the whole second half of the book.
Nov 01, 2015 Ldw39 rated it did not like it
99 pages later I just didn't care. Between the incessant overuse of similes and a story that just didn't move, and knowing there's so much more and better out there, I have myself permission to give up and move along.
Jul 30, 2009 stacy rated it it was ok
Update-I liked the book and had read some of the reviews so the 'twist' wasn't such a surprise but I was still disappointed. It was...interesting, but I felt like the story could have been two different tales. In any case, it kept me busy for a while.

I'm liking this book. Sorta reminds me of The Edible Woman (one of my all-time faves) by Margaret Atwood. I'm only about a 1/3 of the way through but I like it. It's not terribly interesting (maybe it'll get better?) but I like it because it sort of
Eryn O'Shaughnessy
Mar 07, 2014 Eryn O'Shaughnessy rated it liked it
This book had a lot of potential, but missed the mark. I found myself annoyed by the overly descriptive paragraphs. It didn't leave me satisfied at the end
Oct 31, 2007 Jill rated it liked it
I don't know if I'd recommend this book. The basic premise is unique, and this appeals to me. However, the weight of fate as a shaper of our happiness, even our ability to remain alive, sometimes didn't fit for me.

The main character does something that is completely out of character, and that changes everything. However, fate intervenes in three unrelated areas at the same time, creating this sort of quickie ending.

I wonder if the author might have hit a little closer to the mark with some add
Aleesa Sutton
The title caught my eye and the finely-crafted prose of the first few pages hooked me. The author has a very fine eye for detail and writes it well.

The story started off strong (I could especially relate to the main character's longing for a romantic partner). However, Giardini seems to have gotten distracted by her love of description at the expense of the unifying threads that held the story together. It became uninteresting and, unfortunately, ended unsatisfyingly, even before I got to the o
Oct 04, 2008 Jodi rated it it was ok
There was a story in here somewhere. It's a pity it never actually surfaced. I really struggled to complete it. It had interesting plot lines that, just as they pulled you in, disappeared into thin air to be replaced by a seemingly random additions to the story in most cases. The author had an incredible eye for detail and description but if was often applied to describe something not at all related to the story line. It resulted in a distraction from the story instead of adding an air of presen ...more
Feb 24, 2016 Myersakrawiec rated it it was ok
Shelves: family, fiction
Such a great title and premise to this book, the main character's friend develops a quiz that will predict the date of your death. The sad truth is that this has nothing, NOTHING to do with what actually happens in the book! It is a side note at best...
Aug 16, 2011 Lisa rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult_fiction, ebooks
Well, at least I get to use one of my favorite phrases, "Ridiculous book is ridiculous."

(view spoiler)

I was looking at the book covers of the books I've read recently..and I could not remember what this book was about...then I looked at the spoiler and it came screaming back to me. What I still don't get is how the (view spoiler)
Jan 29, 2011 Erin rated it liked it
This book starts out very interesting and beautifully-written. I got almost to the end and had very high hopes for my final thought upon reading the last sentence to be "Wow" but the last few chapters completely lost the voice of the book and seemed rough and thoughtless, like the author put too much effort into the beginning of the book and didn't feel like following through to the end.
Jan 26, 2008 Krista rated it really liked it
Shelves: would-read-again
I was attracted to this book because of the title as well as the cover art. The painting on the cover is by a fabulous photo-realist painter, Gerhard Richter, whose work I greatly admire. This book was a wonderful aid for me to grieve a recent loss in my life and assist me to find comfort in my newfound solitude. Let me share this quote from the book: "Happiness is more ephermal than thought."
Jessica Smith-harper
Beautiful prose is what Anne Giardini is most masterful at creating; plot, not so much. Maggie is such an interesting and kindred character, though, that it would've been lovely just to remain tangled in her dreamy inner life. Interesting to me that Giardini mentions Annie Proulx, because her descriptions of people and places are very like Proulx's. A good evening read.
Melinda Worfolk
Apr 24, 2013 Melinda Worfolk rated it really liked it
Shelves: canadian, fiction, 2005
4.5 stars.

I forgot I had read this until I saw it on M2T2's "want to read" list! I really enjoyed this book a lot. I thought it was pretty cool that it was set in Vancouver and I could recognize many of the places in the novel. While reading it, I kept thinking, "This author writes so much like Carol Shields!" And it turns out Anne Giardini is Carol Shields' daughter.
Peggy Donnelly
Feb 06, 2010 Peggy Donnelly rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading a book about a middle child perspective as I am one of those high maintenance first borns. The primary characters journey to self realization was pleasant and after a turn in the plot suspenseful. It was also interesting to have it set in Canada and learn a little bit of the culture there, especially Quebec.
Aug 02, 2008 Judy rated it liked it
I loved the bits of this book where nothing much was happening - but felt it wasn't quite as good when there was an unlikely plot twist! Giardini does remind me a bit of her mother, Carol Shields, as a writer - that's a good thing, as Shields is one of my favourite authors, although I feel I'm being somewhat unfair in comparing them.
Oct 18, 2007 Emma rated it did not like it
I always finish books I start, but I had to skim the last 100 pages of this one because I felt the need to get through it as quickly as possible. It started off interesting in the first chapter or two, but progressively got worse and worse. The plot is ridiculous and the writing is forced. I truly wonder how this was ever published.
Adriana Glackin
Jun 24, 2015 Adriana Glackin rated it liked it
Likeable characters, quirky story that left me wondering where it was going in some parts but it all came together nicely in the end - in spite of the quirky direction it took two thirds of the way through the story. A nice read and it fit nicely with the Reading Challenge I'm undertaking.
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Anne Giardini is an author, lawyer, and the eldest daughter of late Canadian novelist Carol Shields.

Giardini is licensed to practice law in both Ontario and British Columbia. As a journalist, Giardini has contributed to the National Post as a columnist. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia with her husband of more than 25 years and their three children. She has written two novels, The Sad Tru
More about Anne Giardini...

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“My tears brought no sense of release or relief. Their flight felt like the lightest, coldest touch of a departing lover.” 47 likes
“Life is perphas after all simply this thing and then the next. We are all of us improvising. We find a careful balance only to discover that gravity or stasis or love or dismay or illness or some other force suddenly tows us in an unexpected direction. We wake up to find that we have changed abruptly in a way that is perculiar and inexplicable. We are constanly adjusting, making it up, feeling our way forward, figuring out how to be and where to go next. We work it out, how to be happy, but sooner or later comes a change-sometimes something small, sometimes everything at once- and we have to start over again, feeling our way back to a provisional state of contentment.” 11 likes
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