On its surface, Laura Hankin’s debut is a quick read, a novel that could be categorized as a beach book. Certainly, Happy and You Know It is the sort of novel that can suck a reader in and hold them until a whole day has passed, but it’s also a multidimensional story with riches revealed through close attention.
After Claire is fired from her band, she’s trying to pay her way through New York City life, and a gig as a playgroup musician will have to do. The mothers in the group are wealthy and wellness-obsessed, leading lives far more polished than the existence Claire is eking out. But Claire finds herself drawn to them anyway. The women incorporate Claire into their lives, and she welcomes the inclusion.
But proximity also reveals the chinks in the armor of their carefully styled lives. When one of the women’s husbands gets sick and is forced to work from home, he pushes the women to hold their playgroup elsewhere. Claire recognizes his belief that his activities are more important than his wife’s. “Back in Claire’s hometown, the church drummed into girls at Sunday school that they were special, meant to be cherished, but that ultimately, husbands were the boss. Apparently you could get a degree from Harvard and a fancy New York apartment, and still, some things would stay the same.”
As the playgroup moms work out their insecurities—within themselves and within their friendships—the metaphorical masks they wear begin to slip. With a light hand and a touch of mystery, Hankin’s debut explores feminism, class and the expectations placed on mothers. This is a romp with substance, consumed easily as a beach read but offering ample opportunity for self-reflection.