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My Happy Life [Paperback]

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Item description for My Happy Life by Lydia Millet...

At the opening of My Happy Life, the unnamed narrator has been abandoned in a locked room of a deserted mental hospital. She hasn't seen the nice man who brings her food in days; so she's eaten the soap, the toothpaste, and even tried to eat the plaster on her walls --- a dietary adventure that ended none too well. This woman's story, covering decades and spanning continents, is tragic, yet she is curiously at peace, even happy. Despite a lifetime of neglect, physical abuse, and loss, she's incapable of perceiving slight or injury. She has infinite faith in the goodwill of others, loves even her enemies, and finds grace and communion in places most people wouldn't dare to brave. Lauded by both critics and readers, My Happy Life consistently surprises and excites with its original vision of a unique woman whose rich interior life protects her from the horrors of external reality.

Outline Review
The unreliable narrator tends to get a bum rap for committing a multitude of sins against trusting readers. But what happens when the narrator is impaired? In Lydia Millet's My Happy Life, a nameless woman with a mental deficiency is locked inside an abandoned asylum. To pass the time between staying alive and attempting escape, she scribbles her life story on the walls that separate her from the rest of the world.

In childhood she catapults from one charitable home to another, abused by fellow residents and schoolmates, and eventually winds up sleeping on park benches. As a young woman she falls prey to a sadistic wealthy patron who kidnaps her. With graceful and often poetic simplicity, Millet thrusts us into the childlike mind of a person who has a limited ability to make herself understood in an unforgiving world. This woman's story--covering decades and spanning continents--is utterly tragic, yet her capacity for joy shines throughout. It's quite an about-face from Millet's last novel, the silly and satirical George Bush, Dark Prince of Love. Despite its many abstractions (Where are we? How much time has passed?), the book flows easily and doesn't step outside this determined, faithful woman's story for a second. Her character may not have a name, but readers will ultimately trust her--in happiness and in sorrow. --Emily Russin

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Item Specifications...

Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5" Height: 8"
Weight:   0.34 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 4, 2007
Publisher   Soft Skull Press
ISBN  1933368764  
ISBN13  9781933368764  

Availability  0 units.

More About Lydia Millet

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Lydia Millet is the author of literary fiction including Mermaids in Paradise, Magnificence (National Book Critics Circle Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist), Ghost Lights (New York Times Notable Book), and Love in Infant Monkeys (Pulitzer Prize finalist). She lives outside Tucson, Arizona.

Lydia Millet currently resides in Tucson, in the state of Arizona. Lydia Millet was born in 1968.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary

Reviews - What do customers think about My Happy Life?

Strange but intriguing  Feb 9, 2008
This book will tug at your heart, with it's unusual premise and lead character. I'm not sure it's the kind of book that you could love but it does hold your attention and make you think.
insight and surprise  Dec 2, 2007
I found this book an astonishment and the feeling has stayed with me. the author tackles a story of mental illness, abandonment and abuse through a veil of happiness. It is from the softness of kindness and charity that the events are disclosed. She takes the opposite approach from sadness and self pity. We couldn't read of this much grief otherwise, but we read it gratefully , because the prose is so lovely and her spirit so brave. The writing is lyrical which combines with the sweetness of it to be believable. We are carried through the events as if in a dream state. We ride with the author through the misery, but just above it as she does.
I think this is a must read for memoir readers. Those who want to understand mental illness need to put this up there with the story of the dog in the nighttime.
A story of innocence never lost through age or time  Jan 7, 2006
'My Happy Life' is about a life that has been anything but happy, but our nameless protagonist doesn't see it that way. When a State Hospital for the mentally ill is shut down, our nameless protagonist is left behind, forgotten, in a locked isolation cell.

She begins to write her story on the wall, talking to you as if you were there with her, and her story will stab at your heart even if it is a black shriveled heart. It will bleed for her, trust me.

Left as a newborn in a shoebox near an orphanage, she has never known anything other than state homes and the occasional foster home. Our protagonist comes across as being mentally slow, which may explain her ability to retain her innocence through constant physical and emotional abuse, even turning such abuse into what she feels is a caring connection with others. She simply does not see the bad in anybody.

From state homes to being kept at the mercy of an abuser, who gets her pregnant and then runs off with her baby, our protagonist somehow survives ever mean and vile dish that is handed to her, seeing only nourishment on silver platters.

The tale of her life is sad, poignant, beautiful, upsetting, dramatic, and tender. Millet's prose is stylish, rich, and smacks of true poetic talent. She pulls you into her characters life so quickly and completely that you will not be able to put the book down once you start. Don't worry, its only 150 pages, but the impact it will leave on your is far greater than the thickness of the book.

This is my first Lydia Millet book, and I am definitely buying more of her work. I consider 'My Happy Life' a must read, something for you to think about when you believe your life has gone all wrong because your DVD player broke and your Mercedes has a flat. Truly, a ten star book. Enjoy!
Life in Mayhem  Nov 9, 2005
This particular novel captured me, on several levels, though I was not very interested in the way that the author wrote the book, it was still enjoyable to me. The tale of a woman, and her life being told that she was nothing, and would never amount to anything. She was raped, (several times,) abused, and made homeless. After being taken advantage of by a man named "Mr. D." and was forced to have his baby, her child (whom she named "brother" after spending time with a native tribe on a primitive island that "Mr. D." owned,) was taken away from her, (at the young age of thirteen) and she was blamed for a suicide at a mental hospital she was put into during one point of her life.
I believe that this book could be interesting to an audience of almost all ages over ten. Adults, growing up, and sharing these same traumas, and the adolescence, and learning how to cope, and deal with hardships, and abandon, and abuse. It is easier for people to relate, rather than imagine.
It is obvious that there is a lot of "bad" in the world, and sometime it can, or at least can seem to overcome the "good." So much in fact, that it is difficult to even begin to think about things being good ever again. In the novel, she (who never is really given a "name,") seems to find the good in her life, even though it is (to someone like you or I,) the most horrible living condition you could ever hear of. She creates a motivation after her son is taken, and all she wants is to see him, to be with him, so she searches...She goes back to the town where he took her, attempts to find "Mr. D's" boat, tries to find some shred of her son, though she does not, and still finds the "silver lining" in her "simple" existence. I think that we could all learn a lesson from this brave female figure. When I read this book, I know that it made me more thankful for what I have (that not being very much, though still,) extremely philosophical, it made me think, and I believe that it would do the same for you.
Beautiful Writing  Oct 21, 2005
After reading Lydia Millet's latest book, "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart," I bought all her books. In a week I devoured "George Bush, Dark Prince of Love" and "Everyone's Pretty." Sadly, I have just finished "My Happy Life" and am down to the last, "Omnivores." I admit I am obsessed with Millet's writing: It is exquisite, flowing, the subject matter jarring, disturbing, crazy-ass weird and captivating. I haven't been this enthralled with a writer since I discovered Vonnegut as a teenager(before that, of course, there was Judy Blume and, I'm sort of embarrassed to say, V.C. Andrews). Millet is a brilliant, beautiful writer. I am so grateful for her work and can't wait for her next feat.

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