Staff Review – Happy Place by Emily Henry

It’s official: reading Emily Henry’s novels takes me to my happy place. I was so excited to learn she had a new book coming out that I placed my hold as soon as I heard. Is there anything better than a feel-good romance novel? For some, I’m sure there could be, but novels such as this bring me a comfort and happiness, much like one’s happy place does. Of course, all of my references to one’s happy place are for Henry’s latest novel. In “Happy Place”, Harriet and Wyn are reunited after breaking up six-months ago to their friends annual summer retreat. Their friends, however, have no idea that their best friends have ended their engagement. Trying to keep the peace, the exes decide to pretend to still be together for the week long getaway. Surely no old feelings will come back?

As mentioned, I’m already a big Emily Henry fan. When I heard her newest novel would be about former lovers pretending to still be together, I was intrigued. The idea of two people who already fell in love, likely falling back in love by the end of the novel, tugged on all my heartstrings. Before even reading the novel, I had questions. Why had they broken up? Why didn’t they tell their friends? All is revealed in the novel, of course, and Henry has an honesty about her writing that reminds readers that sometimes, life can simply be difficult and that not everything goes according to plan. Harriet spends her whole life making “bargains with the universe” in order to make the people around her happy – when she is young, she thinks if she is good, her parents will be happy. It stems from this, and follows her to her current position of surgical intern, a job it seems she chose to make others proud of her, though not necessarily herself. I think many of us can relate to pushing forward with things in our lives in order to not let others down. Henry handles this issue with truth and honesty, which I found very refreshing.

While Harriet and Wyn’s romance is the main focus of the novel, Harriet’s friendship with Sabrina and Cleo are the true heart of the story. The three women met in college, their trio turned to five with friends Wyn and Parth, and now Cleo’s girlfriend Kimmy rounds out the friend/couple group. Roughly ten years from when the original trio first met, it’s clear that these best friends are not as close as they once were: key evidence being Harriet not telling them of her broken-off engagement six months ago. As the novel went on, it’s clear their friendship is the heart of the story, and reading how they have begun to grow apart was heartbreaking. Most of us have had people we were once close with, who for some reason or another have grown out of our lives. Strained friendships are not often talked about with his much honesty, and I really appreciated Henry going down this road and highlighting the importance of all types of relationships in one’s life: romantic, platonic, and of course, with oneself. The characters in this book are lonely, even if they don’t admit it, and it was sad but wonderful to read about.

While we discussed the friendships, I do have to say that I loved this “second chance romance” story for Harriet and Wyn. Both characters have self-worth issues and miscommunication is a key factor in their initial breakup. I found both characters really likeable for this reason – they’re both so relatable and both love so beautifully. Emily Henry’s latest novel is full of love. Love for oneself to be brave enough to choose what makes you happy. Love for your friends and the support they can provide during happy and sad times. Love for your partner and the respect that is needed in order to allow both partners to thrive and grow together. In case you can’t tell, I really enjoyed this book (as I thought I would). Henry delivers another fantastic story once again. Be sure to place your hold on Emily Henry’s Happy Place today!