Despite his name, the author has been anything but happy during some 40 years blighted by alcoholism and associated problems of low self esteem, anger, violence, failed relationships, brushes with the law, dead-end jobs, and gambling addiction. In this memoir, he recounts his past troubles, as well as the ways he has tried to combat them in recent years.
In the book’s first half, Happy offers snapshots and memories of his troubled life in a rambling, fragmented, journal-like sequence beginning at age seven when he started stealing. And so it goes: smoking at 11; first beer, sniffing gas and trying cannabis at 12; steady drinking, stealing from cars, and shoplifting at 15; arrested after a drunk-driving crash at 17; living in his car and a homeless shelter at 26.
Despite this depressing downward spiral, there are glimmers of hope: eventually, Happy begins attending AA-type meetings, has a relationship with his young son from a short-lived first marriage, and marries again. “I haven’t drank or gambled for eight months,” he writes. “I see my son. I have a van in the driveway and an ad (offering to do construction work) in the paper. Life goes on …”
In the book’s second half, Happy embarks on a feverish bout of introspection, analyzing his life and the solutions to problems that have worked for him. The sudden switch in narrative style seems to reflect the author’s hyper-jumbled state of mind and is jarring and disorientating. However, Happy also writes poignantly about his dysfunctional family, lack of positive role models, and difficulty forming lasting friendships.
Readers traveling the same tough road – or who are close to someone who is — may gain worthwhile insights from this intensely personal journey of self-discovery. Still, there are so many more comprehensive, helpful and easily understood books about alcoholism that this one is unlikely to have wide appeal.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.