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Norman Erikson Pasaribu’s Happy Stories Mostly Anthology Reviewed

Book Review / Review

The stories in Happy Stories, Mostly, which is forthcoming from Feminist Press this June, are not happy—they do not even pretend to be happy. No, most of these stories are tragic—within these pages, a sister betrays her brother over a menial job, a mother mourns her dead son, who has killed himself after she has disowned him for being gay, and a man begins working, inexplicably, at the Department of Unanswered Prayers—yes, really. These stories, from author Norman Erikson Pasaribu and translated from the Indonesian by Tiffany Tsao, dip into the magical realist at times, but stay consistently inventive, humorous, and tragicomic as they do. Happiness is a concern in these stories, as the protagonists try desperately to find their place in the world, but frequently, what they find is misery; everyday, banal misery, or misery of a more curious kind. Always surprising, with Pasaribu’s clever wit, these stories are not easily forgotten. They slip under the skin, and bring to the surface emotion, laughter, and above all, a kind of bittersweetness.

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