Book Review: The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson

March 1, 2012 book review 5

Ella Beene stumbles upon the town of Elbow California, and she finds a lovely community, nestled in the Redwood forest, and she meets Joe Capozzi.  We meet Ella three years after that wonderful stumble, and she is happy beyond belief, married to Joe and step-mom to Annie and Zack.  All this happiness comes crashing down on her, just like the wave that took her husband away from her in a horrible drowning accident.  In one tragic moment so much of Ella’s life is swept away.  Joe’s family gathers around her, supporting her but also looking to her to carry on the legacy of Capozzi’s Market.

Shockingly Annie and Zack’s mom, Paige returns to Elbow for Joe’s funeral. She’s been gone for three years.  Ella worries what her intentions are, but she has more immediate worries. 

Ella learns that the store is in financial trouble, debts owed to most of their suppliers and not enough income coming in.  She’s got a plan to hopefully turn things around, and then her focus must change again when she learns that Paige is filing for custody of Annie and Zack.  Paige who left them just months after Zack’s birth. Ella feels she is their mother, isn’t that what Joe would have wanted for them? Ella doesn’t know much about why Paige left, she never asked many questions.  Ella sadly realizes she didn’t ask Joe a lot of questions about anything, she was happy to just go along and be  blissfully unaware.  She does realize she has to find out so much more, about Paige, about the Capozzi family, about herself. 

This is a stunning debut by Sere’ Prince Halverson, a book that touches your heart as most of us can’t imagine our children being taken away from us.  The storyline is about a mother and step-mother but also about so much more.  While reading the book I was immediately in love with Ella, she is so likable and I felt the sadness she was feeling in losing Joe, fearing losing her children and struggling to save the family business.  She is real, she has simple and tangible desires, she is much like myself and many women I know. 
Paige is the woman I’ve whispered about.  How could she just leave her children? What makes a mother do such a thing? The old line about not knowing a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes is so very true in this case.  Paige is a woman with a long history of suffering and neglect, and as the story goes on, Halverson brings about these traits in such a sensitive and compassionate way, I literally cried when I learned more.  I may never judge a mother so quickly again. 

I really enjoyed this book, I saw it’s cover and picked it up at the store and added it to my growing list of books to read.  I was curious about how a struggle between two women would end up.  The colorful pictures that Halverson draws of the beauty of northern California, and the words she uses to create each scene each emotion are perfect.  Still now I can imagine  Ella’s small home, the garden, the bedrooms.  I can imagine the cozy store, and the delicious foods she’s written about.  I’ve given this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.  I am recommending it to everyone. 

Thank you to KMSPR for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour.

Thank you to Dutton and Penguin Books for a copy of the book.  This in no way influenced my opinion.

Sere Prince Halverson can also be found on facebook.

5 Responses to “Book Review: The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson”

  1. Zibilee

    This was such a beautiful review, and I love the sound of this book. You make the struggle between the women sound so heart twisting and real. I definitely need to read this one soon.

  2. Jenny

    This does sound really good, and I want to dislike Paige already so if the author makes you feel for her too then sounds like a great job!

  3. Pam

    I’m so glad you reviewed this book! It’s been on my tbr list for a while and I keep passing it by for others. I was afraid it would be predictable and sappy. You’ve painted quite a different picture. I’m intrigued about how the author was able to portray Paige in a sympathetic light. I will definitely move this one up a few spaces on my list.

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