Happy Never After (Jill Stark, Scribe)
Picking up where her debut bestseller High Sobriety left off, journalist and author Jill Stark’s Happy Never After charts the period from her breakdown in October 2014 to her ensuing road to recovery. After experiencing an unsustainable ‘free-falling, anchorless kind of happy’, Stark examines why having all your dreams come true isn’t necessarily the recipe for lifelong contentment. By looking back on her childhood, interviewing experts and amassing anecdotal data, Stark expertly links her lifelong struggle with anxiety with a collective social malaise that is exacerbated by our constant connectivity, underfunded mental healthcare systems and the pervasive ‘happiness myth’. Levity and humour punctuate Stark’s introspective journey of recovery, although the book occasionally veers into blatant self-help territory where every setback is seen as an opportunity, and references to Marie Kondo’s cult of tidiness, for instance, feel a touch dated in 2018. But the book’s resounding takeaway that there are multiple ‘happy-in-betweens’ instead of one ‘happy-ever-after’ is an uplifting and liberating one. Readers who enjoyed Brigid Delaney’s gonzo account of wellness in Wellmania and Jenny Valentish’s investigative deep dive into addiction and treatment in Woman of Substances will enjoy Happy Never After.
Sonia Nair is a Melbourne-based writer and critic.