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The Happiest People in the World

3.21  ·  Rating details ·  793 ratings  ·  172 reviews
Take the format of a spy thriller, shape it around real-life incidents involving international terrorism, leaven it with dark, dry humor, toss in a love rectangle, give everybody a gun, and let everything play out in the outer reaches of upstate New York—there you have an idea of Brock Clarke’s new novel, The Happiest People in the World.

Who are “the happiest people in th
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 4th 2014 by Algonquin Books
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Feb 16, 2015 rated it liked it
2.5 stars

What was turning out to be a mildly disappointing comedy (channeling, perhaps, the likes of Christopher Buckley and other satirists with a geo-political bent) became hugely disappointing once I realized, about 75% of the way through, that Brock Clarke (a pseudonymous porn-star-sounding name if there ever was one) was the author of Exley, one of my favorite books I read in 2012. The Happiest People in the World, though often quite funny, is hampered by a convoluted plot, and by no faul
Ron Charles
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Only the most intrepid or giddy readers persist in the search for a great new comic novel. We know it must be out there, somewhere — like Bigfoot. Every few months, an excited alarm is raised in the forest of literary fiction; we rush to inspect the spoor (Thurber? Amis? ). Hmm. . . . Funny, but not really hilarious. The track is inconclusive. The search goes on.

Rumors about Brock Clarke’s new book, “The Happiest People in the World,” drove us weary explorers into fits of sniggering anticipation
Sep 30, 2014 rated it liked it
On the cover is a perfect quote from another author, Peter Orner, describing this book: "As hilarious and thought provoking as it is ultimately deadly, deadly serious."

Serious were the repercussions when a Danish cartoonist depicted the prophet Muhammed with a bomb planted beneath his turban-- true story from a couple years back, you will recall. So then here we have a cartoonist for a much smaller Danish newspaper, who is assigned to depict in some way the controversy that the first cartoon cre
Jan 27, 2015 rated it liked it
2.5 bumped to 3: The press on this book is: “This madcap adventure mixes small town teachers, barkeeps, teenagers, and fry-cooks with international spies, terrorists, and political refugees.” That pretty much sums up the book. Seriously. That sentence alone.

My opinion is that it’s a goofy read at best. Clarke has some witty moments in his story. It’s over-the-top silly (i.e. madcap). It is entertaining, if you have the time. If your reading time were precious, this wouldn’t be one of the books I
H R Koelling
Nov 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Interesting novel, but with so many characters I had a hard time keeping track of everyone. When some of the characters have multiple names, I really get confused!

Wasn't as funny as the blurbs on the book jacket say it is. The humor is cerebral and dark, not as accessible as something that might fall into the Humorous Fiction genre.

Good plot and well developed characters, but just too many of them for me to keep track of easily; especially when you only read a chapter or two every other night f
Jan 01, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing like starting off the year with a 1-star review.

I should have heeded the low ratings on goodreads, but I really enjoyed the quirky humor of "An Arsonists' Guide to Writer's Homes;" although I did not enjoy "Exley."

This book was terrible and had one of the worst cases of Lazy Writing ever. It truly felt like the author had written it in one sitting, overnight, while getting sleepier & sleepier, and submitted his one, rambling, horrible first draft the next morning.

Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Book overall, one word review would be "Absurd". Other than that?

That ending. Not my style.
Oct 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. Few books make me laugh out loud and this did. Clarke's writing is elegant and witty. I can't even imagine how he came up with the plot, which has become somewhat creepy with recent events. The action is wildly and weirdly hyperbolic, yet at it's core the novel has something to say about the small things in life; marriage, parenting, small towns and international spies. ...more
Lance Cromwell
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
"The moose head was fixed to the wall, the microphone in its mouth was broken, but the camera in its left eye was working just fine, and as far as the moose head could see, this was just another Friday night in the Lumber Lodge! Perhaps even more Friday night than most Friday nights."
Thus begins the wild, excellent, wicked~smart ride that is The Happiest People In The World , and this is anything but "just another" Novel... it is quite definitely more Novel than most Novels.

Clarke's most re
Rob Slaven
Nov 05, 2014 rated it liked it
As is often the case I received this book free in exchange for a review. This time it was through LibraryThing. Despite that kindness I give my absolutely candid thoughts below.

Boiling down the plot to its most essential internals, the story revolves around a Danish cartoonist who pokes fun at the wrong religious figure and is forced to flee his life and family to take refuge in America. Once he gets there he finds that all is not as it seems.

To the positive side, the book certainly doesn't fall
At the urging of his newspaper editor, hapless Danish political cartoonist Jens Baedrup published a somewhat disrespectful drawing of Mohammed the Prophet. End result: Jens's house was torched, apparently by "Islamic fundamentalists", and he is presumed dead. He isn't actually dead, however. Instead, for his own protection, he is spirited away by an operative of the CIA to a small town in upstate New York. A stranger in a strange land, Jens changes his name to Henry, tells everyone he is Swedish ...more
Megan H
Oct 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The moment after I finished this book, I started pacing around my room alternating between "What the hell" and "I can't believe he did that." The Happiest People in the World is a messy tangle of characters, relationships, and motivations but Clarke picks at one string after another until it all comes together (or rather falls apart).

The opening prologue is baffling, though entertainingly told through the eyes of a mounted moose head, but it is immensely satisfying to return to after finishing t
Nov 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Lorraine by: LTER
This book came to me via LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.

This peculiar story, about a Danish cartoonist in a sort of witness protection program who ends up in a small American town and becomes entwined in the lives of the inhabitants (and the secret agents who oversee his protection), is rather bizarre. It is odd, in a style that reminds me of Catch-22 because it is seemingly random, illogical, about conspiracies and circular plotlines entangled in each other -- though not nearly as deepl
PopcornReads - MkNoah
Book Review & Giveaway: Brock Clarke is an award-winning, bestselling author who writes quirky books, the kind we love. So it probably would have been a no brainer to agree to read his latest novel, The Happiest People In The World, even if the description hadn’t made me laugh out loud. It’s been called a madcap adventure and it definitely is. It’s also a thriller of sorts, with characters who could have easily fit into the old TV spy show Get Smart. At its center is a person who is convinced ev ...more
I quit reading this after about 50 pp. then I went on my trusty goodreads and saw all these four and five star review. So, I gave it another go. Still didn't work for me. First of all, it was based on the so-not-funny response to a cartoon of Mohammed. Seriousy. Not funny.

I never really understood anyone's motivation. And I didn't really like anyone except the teenager Kurt. Clarke opened the story by telling the end of the story. I'm never fond of this technique. Does the author hope you'll f
Apr 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: arc-galley
Easily one of the strangest books I've ever read.

The writing style is weird as hell. It's a lot of run on sentences and trains of thought like for instance one man looks at another man at a baseball game and the first man thinks about all the emotions that are going into this look and that description runs a full page with no periods, just a lot of commas. If you hate that last sentence, this may not be the book for you.

Despite the writing I really enjoyed trying to figure out how all of these
Jade Gotter
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
I just couldn't do it. I could not finish this book. I kept thinking it would get better, but I was forcing myself to read it, and reading should be pleasurable. I understand the author's intent when using very long run on sentences to illustrate the rambling thoughts of the characters, but I became very tired of these one page sentences. Upon reading one run on sentence that took up two pages, I closed the book (though I was midway through) and will not open it again. There are too many other b ...more
to be clear here, couple stars for humor, and couple for small town life and immigrants in the midst, and couple for the plot that won't stop, but two extra stars for timeliness, about a hapless danish cartoonist moved to small town new england usa for his own safety as the fatwa against him is serious stuff.

is free speech and freedom of thought truly a human right, or a brief anomaly of human history? that the novel is accessible i guess is part of the answer.
Rich Hancuff
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely couldn't put this book down once I started reading it; clarke's novel re-imagines a small lumber town as the home base of a seemingly unsupervised CIA cell but as with all Clarke's novels, it's the absurdity of our lives that takes center stage. ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Made me laugh out loud numerous times. Dark and smart!
Nov 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Fair book. Rather odd.
Feb 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
This had potential, but the most pathetic and utterly pointless ending ruined any potential. Waste of my reading life, can't get those hours back. ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it
This amusing story told in a light tone is almost Shakespearean, with its characters with multiple identities and characters confused with other characters all in settings that are at once relevant and unbelievable. Despite its light, amusing, tone, the story also has tragic elements and otherwise has some meat on its bones. Take this passage, for example, in which a Muslim teenager named Soren enters a convenience store in a village in Denmark (though most of the story is actually set in a vill ...more
John Tobelmann
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Well written "comedy" if you can call a book with this kind of body count a comedy. Great characters, even though none were really likable. Good set up and tied together finale that you see coming but still...In a nut shell, Danish man in witness protection marries his bosses ex wife. His boss wants him dead. His handler goes rogue and wants him dead. His reason for being in witsac wants him dead. Hilarity ensues. I wasn't falling down laughing but I was amused. Love triangles, Spy intrigue, sma ...more
Katherine Scott
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Completely outside of my usual reading fare, this was funny and slightly depressing. The impending tragedy is highlighted in the opening pages and the rest of the book gradually gets us there. By the time we arrive, we've been on a roller-coaster of personalities and motives. We don't know who to root for and we just want it to all end some other way. That being said, this is a well-written and fun book that gazes into our darkness and shows it back to us in all of its ugliness but with great hu ...more
Jill Diamond
Sep 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I started this book once before and didn’t finish it, even though I was liking it. Why? I don’t know. So I offered it up to book club to make me finish reading it. I wish I had written this review sooner after finishing it because I remember thinking it was funny but now I don’t really remember if it was worth a 3 or a 4. Giving it a 4 since I loved the moose head beginning, and I remember laughing more than once. And I like this author.
Allegra Diamond
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. I don’t really know how to describe my thoughts on this book. Sometimes I hated it, and yet there are scenes, especially the opening one, that I can’t stop thinking about and I now want to read every book by this author.
Patrick Marshall
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
An entertaining book where a Danish Cartoonist is put into hiding in a small town in upstate New York. The characters, I find, despite the book's title, are the unhappiest people I've seen in a while...but I'm willing to go along for the ride with them. ...more
Jun 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Dumb, dumb and dummer.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
Not much to say about this one. It wasn't great but it wasn't the worst thing I've ever listened to. ...more
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Brock Clarke is the author of seven books of fiction, most recently a collection of short stories, The Price of the Haircut. His novels include The Happiest People in the World, Exley (which was a Kirkus Book of the Year, a finalist for the Maine Book Award, and a longlist finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (which was a national ...more

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“In this way, Henry learned several things. That once Amer- icans were out of the cold and in their trucks, they did not like to get back out into the cold, even if it meant making the inside of their trucks as cold as the outside; that American weathermen liked to refer to snow as “the white stuff”; that American sports talk radio announcers liked to say about something, “There’s no doubt about it,” before then expressing their many doubts about it; that American political commentators liked to preface their comments by saying, “No offense,” before then saying some- thing offensive (the political commentator on the radio had said to whomever he was talking to, “No offense, but you have to be the stupidest human being on the planet”); that Americans were very impatient people with very short attention spans; that Amer- icans believed as long as they were inside their trucks they were invisible, and that as long as they smoked cigarettes inside their
trucks they would not then smell like cigarettes once they exited their trucks, and that in general Americans thought their trucks were magic; that while Europeans tended to think of Americans as people who liked to drive incredibly long distances in their pickup trucks, in fact Americans liked to drive incredibly short distances in their pickup trucks as well. These were the lessons Henry learned about Americans during his first minute in Ellen’s truck, and not once was he forced to reconsider them during all his days in Broomeville.”
“Generally speaking, to be in love is to be embroiled in an endless internal conflict between world-weariness and stupidity.” 0 likes
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