The Sad Truth About Happiness


278 pages
ISBN 0-00-200594-8
DDC C813'.6




Reviewed by Lynne Perras

Lynne Perras teaches communication arts at the University of Calgary.


The heroine of Giardini’s first novel is a 32-year-old mammography
technician named Maggie Selgrin. Maggie’s comfortable existence in
Vancouver is unsettled when she is confronted with a quiz in a popular
magazine that poses the question, “Are you happy?” Maggie’s
response—“Not completely”— bothers her so much that she decides
to initiate a number of small changes in her life. Dating more
frequently and attending church are two such changes.

As the middle sibling of three sisters, Maggie has always been the calm
and rational one. But when her sister Lucy is caught up in a custody
battle, Maggie takes drastic action. In doing so, she triggers events
that will change her life and the lives of those around her forever. In
the end, Maggie learns valuable lessons about the different kinds of
love and about the elusive nature of true happiness.

The novel is not without flaws. Maggie is not the most fully developed
character, and some of the events recounted in the book are far-fetched.
For example, Maggie’s treatment at the hands of the legal system is
almost unbelievably lenient.

That said, The Sad Truth About Happiness is a compelling and highly
enjoyable read. Observations such as the following demonstrate
Giardini’s incredible promise as a writer: “Happiness evades
capture, dissolving like a melody into the air, eluding even the most
delicate, careful grasp. It frustrates any systemic search, responding
better to random fossicking and oblique approaches, and its rewards are
infuriatingly arbitrary, stingy, or abundant by purest chance.”


Giardini, Anne., “The Sad Truth About Happiness,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,