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Secrets to Happiness: A Novel Hardcover – March 25, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 90 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dunn charts several New Yorkers' lives in this snappy novel. The spotlight most often falls on Holly Frick, a 35-year-old divorcée whose egg walls are taking on the consistency of tissue paper as we speak. A writer whose cheeky first novel bombed, Holly now resides low enough on the TV totem pole to be cranking out after-school dreck with her gay pal Leonard. Meanwhile, her best friend, Amanda, is cheating on her husband, and Holly adopts Chester, a cute little dog with cancer whose hopeful approach to life mirrors Holly's. While Holly's love life follows a formula-familiar trajectory, Amanda's romantic flailing ensnares Holly, and Chester's destiny takes an unexpected turn that means big changes for both of them. Although clichés pop up (the supergay friend, a $1,200 purse splurge), the energetic and witty prose speeds along the narrative. It's smarter than the usual single-in-the-city fare, and funnier, too. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

Holly Frick is smart and sassy, loyal and dedicated. All the qualities a woman could want in a girlfriend, but not the ones that seem to resonate with men, if her roster of failed relationships is any indicator. There’s her ex-husband, Alex, with whom she’s still in love; her ex-boyfriend, Spence, a womanizing creep whom Holly scathingly immortalized in her first novel; and Lucas, a 22-year-old boy-toy who, for all his playful sexuality, ultimately makes Holly feel like a cradle-robbing matron. But then she meets Jack, an opinionated Buddhist who is having an affair with her married best friend; and even though Holly takes an immediate dislike to him, she has to admit there’s something undeniable lurking just beneath the surface. Dunn displays a rapier wit; a perfectly nuanced gift for savvy, sophisticated dialogue; and an endearing moral compass, which she uses to great advantage as she blithely navigates the fraught and fatuous world of trendy New York’s treacherous dating scene. --Carol Haggas

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (March 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316013587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316013581
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (90 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,188,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. Herbrand on June 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Based on the title, Secrets to Happiness, and the cute puppy on the cover, I was expecting a light summer read with a happy ending. Now, don't misunderstand me - I don't need a happy ending to enjoy a book - and this book did have a happy ending of sorts - it was just not what I was expecting. (I guess that is why they say don't judge a book by it's cover!)

Holly is the main character - she is middle-aged, divorced from a man she was still in love with, and her career is in a downward spiral. She had been a successful sitcom writer with Leonard - but had taken a break to write a book. (Leonard's career also took a nose dive after this when he decided to make a very very gay movie). The book was not the success she had hoped for and was pretty much about her ex-husband Alex, and her ex-boyfriend before the husband, Spencer.

Holly does some crazy things in the following months - I would say she was searching for that 'elusive' happiness. She has an affair with Lucas who is only 22 and the younger brother of her friend Betsy. Then she moves on to Jack who she met while he was having an affair with her married friend, Amanda. Somewhere in the midst of all this she adopts a dog, Chester, who has brain cancer.

I did not feel a connection to anyone in this book - and there were a lot of characters. I will admit that I had to go back occasionally to figure out who they were talking about - the characters just did not seem very distinctive for me. The book overall didn't hold any excitement or anticipation - it didn't seem to 'build' to a climax, but just sort of ended. I suppose that mirrors real life in some ways though - situations resolve, relationships evolve or end, but life continues on. Please take a look at some other reviews (below) - just because it wasn't for me, doesn't mean it won't be for you!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I would not jump to classify this book as "chick lit." The author, Sarah Dunn, tells a more realistic and gritty anti-love story through different characters throughout the novel. There are girlfriends, ex-husbands, boyfriends, boy-toys, work partners, pets, siblings - a variety of relationships are explored as the characters intertwine. All types of relationships can lead to or lead from one's personal quest for the secrets to happiness.

It takes a few chapters to get into this book, the main characters, Holly and Amanda, are not immediately like-able possessing a somewhat chilly city charm. By the end, though, I felt refreshed for choosing to read an interesting take on adult relationships and not another girl finds self, gets man, story.
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Format: Hardcover
Sarah Dunn is a truly talented writer. Her writing is witty, lively, and flows beautifully. However, for me, Secrets to Happiness wasn't the book to showcase that talent. In fairness, let me start off by saying that I am probably outside of the target demographic of this book. I am a fairly conservative, career woman turned stay-at-home mother, who is totally devoted to my husband and children. The characters in this novel would likely describe me as a naive optimist.

The central character of the novel is Holly Frick, a recently divorced writer on the downward slope of her career, who has been anything but lucky in love. Holly lives, works, and plays in New York city. In general, Holly is a bit at a loss as to how to find happiness in her life. It turns out that most of her close friends, including her best friend Amanda, haven't figured that out either; despite appearances to the contrary. Secrets to Happiness presents us with a host of characters, and their search to find fulfillment.

Initially, I really enjoyed this book for the first few chapters in which the author introduced Holly, and some of her history. However, a few pages more had me wondering why Holly would choose to spend time with many of the other characters, especially her best friend Amanda. I found the majority of the characters in this book to be self-centered egoists who treated Holly as a quaint little country girl because she sometimes voiced a moral qualm with regards to the consequences of destructive behavior, like adultery. The character of Amanda particularly had me wanting to hurl the book out of the window.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
<i> Secrets to Happiness </i> proved to be the ideal read for my flight to Ireland. It was breezy, entertaining, and also very funny. I also enjoyed the meta observations on the perils of writing chick lit. It was not overly predictable, which is a mark of Dunn's talent without sacrificing readability. However, I found it extremely lazy that she would often indicate pregnant pauses with "--" rather than make the effort of explicating them. I am a stickler for words, words, words whenever possible. I find such indicators to be a crutch that cropped up whenever Dunn was at a loss as to how to proceed plot wise, and I had to restrain myself from counting them. Furthermore, although it is not quite as side-splittingly funny as her first effort, I nonetheless enjoyed <i> Secrets </i> and appreciated the apt cover art. As Charles Schultz said of Snoopy, "Happiness is a warm puppy."
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