Emily Henry’s popular novel “Happy Place” is a read for those who miss the chaotic simplicity of hot summer days. Published in April of this year, the novel follows two heartbroken ex-lovers amidst an irresistibly charming friend group during their hectic week-long Maine vacation. Readers will instantly be swept up by the hurricane of emotions experienced by Henry’s characters before they even get to know the characters themselves.
Students at the University of Maine might be interested in “Happy Place” for its setting, the fictional town of Knott’s Harbor, Maine. The coupled-off friend group spends a week each summer in a quaint Maine cottage, soaking up the sun, drinking wine and eating lobster rolls by the dozen. Henry describes the serene Maine shoreline—scents of salt left lingering in clothes, the call of seagulls lulling you to sleep, and lazy mornings ambling through town with a coffee in hand.
Henry bounces between past and present to shape the love-stricken and heartbroken lives of the main characters, Harriet and Wyn. After failing to tell their friends that they’d broken up months ago, the pair find themselves at the cottage for the group’s yearly seaside getaway. Instead of telling their friends the truth, the ex-fiances decide to spend the week faking being together. What could go wrong?
Although readers don’t meet Harriet and Wyn until after their relationship has ended, the true and unfiltered story of what happened isn’t disclosed until the novel’s end. Henry omits crucial information to purposefully leave readers confused and wondering. Certain conversations and behaviors from the friend group sometimes point to events from the past that have not yet been revealed, adding elements of mystery and suspense. The entire novel is foreshadowed by one looming question: will they get back together?
Henry doesn’t allow readers of “Happy Place” to feel comfortable for too long. There are pockets of calm amidst the friend group’s complicated dynamics, present in nights out in the small town, days lounging beside the pool and mornings on the beach. However, the reader always feels a looming sense of anxiety, waiting for the next dramatic moment.
Henry knows how to shape her characters in ways that are rounded but not overly complex. Readers become familiar with Henry’s character, Harriet, and are at the forefront of many of her major life events. Her feelings of being overwhelmed and unfulfilled at her job and her anxiety and heartbreak after seeing Wyn at the cottage are all felt personally by the reader. Harriet experiments with pottery to help relieve some of these negative feelings, finding peace at the pottery wheel. Even then, Henry meticulously captures Harriet’s journey of finding relief through pottery.
The novel’s cover makes the book unmissable, sporting a hot pink background and six friends splashing around in Maine waters.
“Happy Place” can be found at many major bookstores and at many online retailers. Emily Henry is the author of “Book Lovers,” “People We Meet on Vacation” and “Beach Read.” Her website can be found at https://www.emilyhenrybooks.com/.