I’ve just finished reading “This is Happiness” by Niall Williams. There are many places you could easily Google to find out the short version, the important bits, or more about the author. As with most books, you could easily research it enough to “know it”, and talk as if you’ve read it. But I would warn you – that is not happiness. 🙂
The story takes place in a small town called Faha in Ireland. It seems the kind of town which is important to you if you’re from such a town, but even then only if you’re from not just “such a town” but from that particular such a town. It happens to be occurring just as the town itself is on the cusp of electricity’s first arrival. It is told from the perspective of an older man looking back on his life, remembering the days of his 18th year.
The book is filled with poetic words reflecting on major themes such as life’s purpose, romance, faith, love, friendship, and the arrival of something new that can change life forever. Even if you’ve never been to Faha, and even if you’ve only lived in major metropolitan areas you’re entire life – you’d find yourself in familiar territories many times throughout this book. Whether you’re the kind of person who romanticizes places like this (as if they don’t exist an hour’s drive from where you presently have chosen to live), or you feel trapped in one (but are actually quite free to make your mind up and try something different), you’ll find aspects of life in Faha that draw you in.
As a pastor, I felt particularly drawn to the moments describing the arrival of something new which changes the perspective on all things which have come or been experienced previously. This happens in more ways than electricity itself – although this is the most obvious correlation. How do you help people to excitedly anticipate something for which they have no reason to think they’re in need of? How can the human heart seem dormant or clueless, and in an instant be switched or lit up in a direction it never even comprehended itself capable of?
In the mist of all that happens, we hear the words of wisdom from which I believe the book received it’s title:
“..you could stop at, not all, but most moments of your life, stop for one heartbeat and, no matter what the state of your head or heart, say This is happiness, because of the simple truth that you were alive to say it. I think of that often. We can all pause right here, raise our heads, take a breath and accept that This is happiness…“
All of which to say: This book is worth a read. Especially if you enjoy the kinds of books which say something a bit more poetically than might require saying. If you’re the type of person who would rather someone say “It was windy outside.”, you may not enjoy this book so much. But if perhaps you’d enjoy someone saying, “The wind was a pack of wild stallions invading the still forests of the night, as if they’d burst in protest from the fences some ill-equipped ranch-hand had assembled, meaning the darkness was theirs for the taking and not even the strongest bird dare leave it’s shelter for fear of being lost forever.”, then this book might be right up your alley.
Read it slowly…and with an old man’s Irish accent.