Always Happy Hour
Review by: Lexa Mosher
*This novel may include some mature themes including: substance abuse, domestic violence, and sexual encounters.
Whenever I read a realistic fiction story I always feel like there is something off; something that causes the entire book to feel like it is not possible, but while reading the book, Always Happy Hour, I actually felt like I could know everyone of the women in each chapter. Mary Miller wrote a brilliant novel filled with heartache and struggles. Her writing is genuine and poignant. While reading, you get to live the lives of each main character, leaving you with the emotions that each protagonist felt, only making this such a better read.
When I first picked up the book I was immediately intrigued. The cover was very well done and actually has a lot to do with the book itself. Miller dedicated Always Happy Hour to her ex’s, and it fit perfectly with the overall theme of the book.
Miller explores the lives of 16 unique, but similar women. The book Always Happy Hour is a novel with multiple short stories within itself. Each chapter introduces a new female character who struggles with very grim but very common untalked about issues while reading, you get to see the decisions and actions that each protagonist makes and while many books are like this, Miller wrote each character in a way that you felt completely interactive with the book. Usually I don’t enjoy books with different stories per chapter very much because the stories always seem way too short and seem to end in a wrong way. However, the stories that Miller wrote felt so authentic and real, I caught myself falling into the pages and into the worlds of these dysfunctional but spirited adult women. These women struggled with female empowerment, confidence, abuse, divorce, substance abuse, as well as the conflict in their sexual lives, and each woman handled these issues is such a different way; whether it be telling themselves that he “loves her” or using their friends just to get pills these women never fail to amaze me.
While there is a common theme in each chapter: alcohol, drugs, bad boyfriends, sex, children, divorce, and other things similar to that, each character is still extremely distinct from the other based on how they react to the different situations that they are going through. Miller also shines a light on real issues that women go through, she breaks out of the typical mold of love and explores what goes on in many relationships but goes unsaid. The characters are faced with the conflict of love and abuse, heartbreak and overreaction, and reality and delusion. That is another thing that made these stories seem so real. Some might say that when you read Always Happy Hour all at once it will seem a little repetitive, but if you do read it all at once or in a short span of time you will notice the connections between the chapters and how the women are experiencing very similar things but handling the situations in such a different way.
A few of my favorite stories are “Big Bad Love” and “He Says I’m A Little oven”.”Big Bad Love” is a story about a young woman who is working at an orphanage in her towns ghetto. The story opens with Diamond; who is an extremely troubled orphan, standing in an ant hill because she didn’t get what she wanted . The protagonist states that she is fond of Diamond very early on. She is one of the oldest girls at the orphanage at the age of 7 (most girls ages 13 and up end up running away). The main character struggles with taking care of the children due to lack of money for food, lack of cleaning, and the struggle of dealing with the emotional trauma that comes with dealing with orphans. Through all of her trials and tribulations, Diamond sticks by the main characters side; while she may not be the best behaved child, the main character is determined to make sure that she feels cared for. The one scene in the chapter that I enjoyed the most was when Diamond had gotten angry with her caretaker she started screaming and ran into her room, slammed the door, and destroyed the entire bedroom; throwing shoes, toys, clothes, pillows, anything she could get her hands on. The protagonist gives Diamond a few minutes to calm down and then goes to comfort her, telling her she is loved. The whole idea of ‘Big Bad Love” was incredible. That was one of my favourite stories because it really went into depth about how children are experiencing traumatic things and how they really do need to felt cared for. “He Says I’m A Little Oven” is about a woman and her boyfriend on a cruise along with her boyfriends parents. At first I wasn’t very fond of this chapter. With a few pages in I didn’t understand what made this chapter special from the others until the part when the main character is getting sea sick. She asks her boyfriend to get her medication and he sort of blows her off and says he’ll “Smoke a joint and then go get it.” The main character explains that he will probably go off drinking and take shots off of girls at a bar. As the story further develops you get to see more of how the boyfriend treats her and just how they interact with each other. The main character says that her boyfriend loves her repeatedly; causing me to be a bit sympathetic towards her. The main thing i enjoyed about “He Says I’m A Little Oven” is that it wasn’t a typical love- relationship story. It actually went into depth about how some people are treated in certain relationships.
To truly experience the beauty and realism of these stories you would have to pick up a copy for yourself. Miller’s writing style and her way with words helped transform this book into what it is. I highly, highly recommend this book if you are looking for a novel that captures the realistic struggles of life. This is a good novel to curl up on a couch with and read to your heart’s content. It is full of beautiful stories, you will get to cry and laugh with the characters and hopefully grow a connection with them as I did.