Review: The Happiest People in the World: A Novel

The Happiest People in the World: A Novel
The Happiest People in the World: A Novel by Brock Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If Wes Anderson wrote a book, it would probably look like Brock Clarke’s THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. That’s a good thing—for some people.

The last Anderson movie I saw, THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, had a lot of characters, a bit of intrigue, and doses of wit. It also has a 3.9 rating on Amazon. THE HAPPIEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD does much of the same: characters, intrigue, wit, and an above average rating. It’s good, but not for everyone.

Let’s start with the base point: satire. It’s cerebral and usually toys with topics you’ve seen in the news. If you aren’t “in the know” and aren’t willing to play along, you’re going to have a bumpy ride. Satires are not known as beach-worthy page turners. They require you to pay attention, otherwise you may really think there’s a live moose on the wall and those people on the ground are either laughing or drunk.

Happiest people starts with a cartoonist drawing a beheaded Muhammed and then plays around in the seemingly quiet areas of upstate New York. Everything on the cover is true: CIA, terrorists, bored families…whatever you can imagine, really. Did I mention the Wes Anderson connection? The setting is a comedic playground of which I’m not sure the author took full advantage.

I take that back. Maybe the author did take full advantage of the comedy in it all, but the name changes and characters dilute the punchline from the otherwise daunting mental follow-along. Throw these happy people on the screen with Anderson’s name on it and it may actually win him his first Oscar. Age-changing, name-changing characters are sometimes easier to follow when they look the same. (P.S. thank you to the Wachowskis and Tom Hanks for helping me better understand David Mitchell’s CLOUD ATLAS: similar situation with characters).

Bottom line: if you have the patience to follow along, you’ll definitely get a few chuckles, if not some guffaws. Humor is all about surprise and there are quite a few surprising moments throughout. Do as I did and digest this book a chapter at a time. Let the humor sink in and wait for the punchline to hit.

I give this book a 3.9 and nominate it for an Oscar, once it hits the screen.

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