Joy desires nothing more
than her husband's happiness. She spends her days creating the perfect
life for him in their idyllic suburban home. Everything is neat,
predictable, and in its place.
When Joy finds a picture that
hints at a past she cannot remember, the facade cracks. As secrets are
revealed, Joy realizes her blissful life is crumbling and to find
herself, she must first lose herself.
Perfect, after all, is only an illusion.
Whenever I sit down to read a Sarah Chorn book I have to mentally prepare myself, knowing that I am in for a an emotional rollercoaster, and her latest is no exception. And as Joy says in the book "Sometimes, things hurt ".
The story revolves around Joy and her husband, Mike.
Joy spends her time focused on happy domesticity, following her cleaning routines and focusing on making Mike happy. Her whole life intrinsically revolves around her routine and she is extremely happy in the microcosm of her life, until she makes a discovery, which is a catalyst for her life unraveling around her.
A Sorrow Named Joy is a short book and can be read in one sitting, and I think that this is the best way to let the story wash over you.
As usual, Sarah Chorn's prose is elegantly beautiful and I always marvel at her ability to convey emotion, for instance when Joy is discussing with a neighbour whose marriage is falling apart, Joy makes the observation "This was a woman coming undone and yet fiercely refusing to break. This was strength in its purest form."
The story itself is completely stripped down and revolves around Joy and Mike. Initially, we follow Joy, and Mike is really only a presence in Joy's eyes and appears as an illusory presence that is in Joy's perspective, but he becomes more of a presence later in the book. Both characters are equally fascinating and when Mike's perspective enters the story it brings a well rounded aspect to the situation.
Immediately upon starting the story, Sarah Chorn effectively transmits that there is an undercurrent of unease. You immediately get the impression that the picture that Joy paints of domestic bliss is slightly skew whiff, and not quite right. However, when the reveal comes, it took me completely by surprise. The reveal comes at about halfway through, and it changes the characters. It is at about this point that Mike becomes more of a concrete person in the story rather than the idealised construct that Joy paints him as, and then we follow Joy as she realises that she wants more than the simple life of routine and domesticity.
I have to say, I loved this one. It reminded me of one of my favourite TV series (I am not going to tell you which one, as it would spoil the book), and I could easily have imagined this as an episode of that series. Again, Sarah Chorn does it again and writes a beautiful tale of relationship and passion.