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Book club questions for Happiness Falls by Angie Kim takes a closer look at this impactful story about a family in crisis. There will be spoilers so for more context about the book, check out my spoiler-free review first.
I thought this was a very well-done novel. Quite sad and introspective. It’s an important read.
Let me know what you thought about the book in the comment section below!
“We didn’t call the police right away.” Those are the electric first words of this extraordinary novel about a biracial Korean American family in Virginia whose lives are upended when their beloved father and husband goes missing.
Mia, the irreverent, hyperanalytical twenty-year-old daughter, has an explanation for everything—which is why she isn’t initially concerned when her father and younger brother Eugene don’t return from a walk in a nearby park. They must have lost their phone. Or stopped for an errand somewhere. But by the time Mia’s brother runs through the front door bloody and alone, it becomes clear that the father in this tight-knit family is missing and the only witness is Eugene, who has the rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and cannot speak.
What follows is both a ticking-clock investigation into the whereabouts of a father and an emotionally rich portrait of a family whose most personal secrets just may be at the heart of his disappearance.
Book Club Questions for Happiness Falls
- We read the story from the perspective of Mia. Why do you think the author decided to use the first-person format?
- Mia and her twin brother John are home from college due to the early stages of the pandemic. How did the pandemic help add tension to the story?
- Why was Mia not initially concerned when her father and Eugene weren’t home from their walk in the park? When did the family begin to sense something was truly wrong?
- Why did Mia decide to wash Eugene’s bloody clothes? Do you think she suspected something then? What would you have done if you were Mia?
- Eugene has the rare genetic condition Angelman syndrome and cannot speak. Let’s talk about the impact of this condition on both Eugene and the family.
- As a result of Eugene unable to verbally communicate, his family treats him similar to a nonverbal toddler. When did he start to show signs that he was aware and listening?
- Communication is a key theme of the novel both with Eugene and also with his mother. She also felt somewhat trapped when she came to the U.S. from Korea as she didn’t speak English fluently. Let’s compare and contrast their two struggles with verbal communication.
- Eventually, we learn many of the family’s secrets including the fact their father took Eugene to an experimental communication practice that allowed him to spell out his thoughts. Let’s talk about how this changed everything for the family when Eugene was able to communicate.
- Why did Mia’s father keep this a secret? How might have things been different if the family knew about Eugene’s ability to communicate prior to that fateful day at the park?
- Part of the story is looking back at her father’s research into what is happiness. Why was this such a focus for him? What was your takeaway from this research? In your opinion, what is the definition of happiness?
- What are your thoughts about the mystery as a whole?
- What do you feel really happened that day at the park between Eugene and his father?
- What happens next for the family? Will they have ever closure?
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for Happiness Falls. Here are some more recommendations along with links to book club questions.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
If Happiness Falls is your first book you’ve read of Angie Kim, I highly recommend reading Miracle Creek as well.
How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies?
In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment center, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident.
A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe?
Check out my book club questions here.
Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney
Another engaging story about family secrets is Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan.
Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising their beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined that she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in and taking over her father’s beekeeping business.
Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.
And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet she wonders if she can trust him completely. . . .
Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in Ash, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.
Check out my book club questions here.