The sharp-witted stories in Becky Adnot-Haynes' debut collection explore the secret lives of people--how they deal with the parts of themselves that they choose not to share with their closest confidants--and with the world. A pole-vaulter practices his sport only before dawn. A recently divorced woman signs up for a hallucinogenic drug excursion in the Arizona desert. An uncertain girlfriend goes out into the world wearing a false pregnancy belly. In The Year of Perfect Happiness, the universe is recognizable but slightly askew, a world whose corners can be peeled back to reveal the strange and often comic outcomes of acting out your most self-destructive desires. "In The Year of Perfect Happiness, Becky Adnot-Haynes puts her smart and funny prose to expert use, patiently delving the radiant mysteries we keep from strangers, from ourselves, from the people we love the most: Our joys and sorrows, our hidden hurts and unforgettable mistakes and untellable secrets, secrets which Adnot-Haynes' excellent stories suggest we want only to be forced to share, craving the moment when we're at last revealed in all our imperfect but stunning humanity."--Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods and judge
In this smart collection, awarded the 2014 Katherine Anne Porter prize for short fiction, Adnot-Haynes's dazzles with her wit and insight about the tenuous nature of relationships as a range of characters reveal their innermost thoughts. In "Baby Baby," unemployed Mina dons a fake pregnancy belly in secret, while ironically, a pop H is wrongly accused of a pregnancy sham. As the author plumbs the psyche of a woman who is dissatisfied with more than just her self-image, readers witness a loving relationship implode. In "Planche, Whip, Salto," a 33-year-old woman hides her new passion to become a trapeze artist from her husband, reveling in the freedom and sheer joy of flying through the air to such an extent that she leaves her steady job behind and embarks on an affair with her trainer. In the title story, we follow Davis, a man in his thirties searching for an improbable year of perfect happiness, who flits from one woman to the next, from Manhattan, to Phoenix, and finally to Florida where his parents reside. Incapable of commitment or any true responsibility, his life spirals downward, and it becomes clear true happiness is an impossibility. In this winning collection, each story is a gem.