This one was a tearjerker! I picked up The Underside of Joy from the new books section of my library. It just came out last month so it really is new! I looked at the flap quickly and deduced it involved some sort of custody battle, threw it in my tote bag, and checked it out. Little did I know what I was in for...
The Underside of Joy opens on Joe and Ella. Joe is a photographer and runs his family's mom and pop grocery store. Ella has is pursuing a career as a wildlife guide. They have two children from Joe's previous marriage. Three years earlier, Joe's ex-wife Paige abandoned him and the children shortly after their son's birth. Four months later, Joe met Ella. Within the first 20 pages, Joe is killed in a tragic accident. Paige shows up unexpectedly at Joe's funeral. What does she want? Why is she back? Will she try to take the children?
This book was absolutely heart wrenching and felt very real. I spent a lot of pages tearing up, and the foreshadowing was brutal. You just knew things were sure to get worse before they got better. The author of this debut novel, Sere Prince Halverson, does a great job with character development. You can tell that she spent a lot of time figuring out who these people were before she laid down their lives on paper. There is a sub plot involving Joe's family regarding Italian-Americans being sent to work camps like the Japanese during World War II. It was something I had never heard of before, and it definitely added to the story. One thing that I thought the book could have done without was the epilogue. The author seemed to feel obligated to tie the whole story up with a bow on top and I felt it wasn't at all necessary. You can drop the epilogue when it comes out in paperback...really you can.
Can I recommend this book? Absolutely, but be sure to sit with a tissue box. You'll need it.