Umm, second chance romance where a couple actually works through their problems, written by an author with a track record of writing fully realized characters and not relying on cheap plot twists? Why are you still here? Just go read it!
Plot: Harriet and Wyn have been together for a decade. They’ve gone through university, medical school, and residency together. Only these busy, full years have managed to hide a rot in their relationship. A rot that has permeated everything until it was all that was left. So they split up, as people do. With one minor hiccup – they forgot to mention it to their very tight knit social group. Also the annual group trip is up. Shenanigans ensue.
Henry does this thing where she takes tropes that have been absolutely beaten into the ground and breathes new life into them. Honestly, how did she make the “pretend you’re still together” combined with “only one bed” tropes actually believable? She’s a witch, that’s how.
If you’re picking up Henry for the first time though, be warned that while these tropes are usually fun, Henry’s approach is quite serious. While sharing a bed with an ex is generally played as a joke, Henry wastes no time to point out how awful it would actually be in reality.
While reading it, I couldn’t help comparing it to Sarah Hogel’s You Deserve Each Other – another novel about a couple who, despite being together for years, completely failed to communicate at even a basic level, leading to a major breakdown and shenanigans as the couple learns to work through their issues. I loathed Hogel’s take, and at the time I thought the reason for that was the premise – how can you be with someone for years and not know how to have a simple conversation with them? Why would I root for a couple made up of two people who despite having effectively committed to one another forever who are complete strangers to each other?
Turns out it wasn’t the premise, because despite also sharing the same catastrophic communication problems, Harriet and Wyn clearly love each other and understand each other. They are never deliberately cruel to one another and even in this deeply uncomfortable situation, they are doing their best to work together. Henry also doesn’t pretend that the accumulation of a decade of miscommunication, of growing apart, and of transforming into different versions of themselves can be solved over the course of a week’s vacation. Instead, what Happy Place does is help our couple set the ground work for their future, and do so well enough that the reader can trust that a book set a decade later wouldn’t see them in the same position again.
For long time readers of hers, you’ve probably already read this book, but if you haven’t, I’d say it’s a deeply enjoyable read but for me, still doesn’t beat Beach Read, which remains my favourite of her books. That said, unlike her other books, Henry really doubles down on the other relationships in Wyn and Harriet’s lives. The deep love between this group of friends is beyond enviable, and that each relationship got its own texture to match the characters created not only a rich world despite its tiny footprint, but an ode to the power of friendship.