four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
25-Nov-Dec-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-Happiness Sold SeparatelyWhen Silicon Valley attorney Elinor Mackey, 40, learns that her husband, Ted, is having an affair, she feels "pity … and fatigue" rather than anger. Their marriage has drifted over years of fertility tests and treatments, and though they still love each other, they’re no longer sure that that’s enough to keep them together. Winston draws compassionate portraits of both Elinor and Ted, as well as Ted’s love interest, Gina, a nutritionist and no trashy home wrecker; her affection for Ted is clear and she desperately hopes he’ll become a father figure to her 10-year-old son. As both marriage and affair wax and wane, the three protagonists tackle the big questions of love and life.
Warner Books. 296 pages. $21.99. ISBN: 0446533068

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"[Happiness Sold Separately is a] tender, wry, beautifully crafted story about a marriage in trouble. … Winston narrates the novel from several points of view, and in the process makes all her characters sympathetic." Diane White

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Lolly Winston’s new novel, Happiness Sold Separately, is one of those lovely reads you enjoy for yourself, just for the story, then read again with your book club to criticize and defend the characters and their actions. … It’s messy, like love, and life." Leslie Baldacci

San Jose Mercury News 4 of 5 Stars
"Winston’s poise is betrayed at times by redundancies in the book, which belie a lack of confidence in the reader. … But these are small ripples in an otherwise capable, smart and poignant story, illuminating the internal struggle to do the right things in life at the right times." Christine Thomas

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"[Winston’s] plain-spoken prose and a not-too-gritty resolution should make this a book-group favorite. … Her low-key novel doesn’t aspire to make big statements, but it’s truthful, thoughtful and very appealing." Wendy Smith

USA Today 3.5 of 5 Stars
"You might describe Winston’s novels as Anne Tyler ‘lite.’ This smart wife/guilty male/bimbo triangle could not be more clichéd. Yet it works because Winston takes the plot in unexpected, interesting directions." Deirdre Donahue

Oregonian 3 of 5 Stars
"In some ways, with its engaging tone and borderline-slapstick scenes, Happiness brings to mind a sitcom. … In the end, dripping clothesline notwithstanding, Happiness Sold Separately proves a charming weekend read." Chris Hunt

Critical Summary

After tackling the topic of sudden loss in her debut novel, Good Grief ( 3.5 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2004), Winston turns her attention to infertility and infidelity and addresses these two very sensitive subjects with kindness and grace. Though critics agree that the novel isn’t earthshaking in either content or style, they find much to praise in Winston’s thoughtful portrayals of the too-often-clichéd philandering husband, lonely wife, and needy mistress, as well as the descriptions of tender moments between Ted and Elinor even as they pragmatically "outsource" their sex life to fertility doctors and their love life to therapists. Reviewers cite Happiness as both a good book-club selection and an enjoyable solo read.