Australian Women Writers Challenge,  Book Reviews

Samantha Tidy's The Happiness Jar

There is a jar on one of my bookshelves. It smells vaguely of tomato sauce and in it are little twists of paper. The twists of paper hold words – reminders of things that have happened that made me happy – memories, experiences, ideas, facts.

I got the idea from a blog post I came across while surfing the internet. A few days after I started it, I got a book in the mail: Samantha Tidy’s The Happiness Jar.

It starts with a death, that of Rachel from cystic fibrosis. But Rachael leaves behind a happiness jar full of secrets and a two part will that baffles the daylights out of her mother and brother.

She directs them to strange and unfamiliar and very different corners of the world, each carrying half of her ashes with no instructions on where to go, what to do, who to meet when they get there. But Rachel knows her family inside out.

This jar was a Pandora’s Box for Beth. Not only had Rachel done things that Beth did not know about but her daughter had found joy in her short life and bottled it. She had stored her memories in this jar as if in some small way she had been able to record the finer details of happiness.

This is a book about family – about our insecurities, our fears, the way we define our boundaries and try to control our lives by refusing to step outside them. And how moving across those lines can change everything in a heartbeat. This is a book about someone who knew that the only way to sort her family out was to travel to get a new perspective through which to see it.

And sort them out she does. Even after dying.

Author: Samantha Tidy
Genre: Literary fiction
Publisher: Storytorch Press
Publication Date: 2013

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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