Review by Lindsay Denninger

The Year of Perfect Happiness by Becky Adnot-Haynes
Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction (Book 13)
University of North Texas Press -- October 7, 2014
ISBN: 978-1574415650


Becky Adnot-Haynes is good with secrets, which is an excellent thing, because her new collection of short stories, The Year of Perfect Happiness, is chock full of them. They're the kind of secrets that you don't admit to yourself—that you wear a fake pregnancy belly in public, that you purposely ruin every relationship you have, or that you've never told your husband all the bad things from your past—the kind of secrets that would ruin a day, let alone a life. Adnot-Haynes tells stories of people who are both fleeing and embracing themselves in a beautiful dance of self-awareness and self-destruction. Are the characters likeable? Not necessarily, but they are quite relatable.

A winner of Hobart's Buffalo Prize and the Katherine Anne Porter Prize, both for short fiction, Adnot-Haynes' lovely, lyrical prose juxtaposes beautifully with the roughly (but richly) detailed characters. She paints a perfect picture of the human condition and all of the unattractive aspects that come with it. In "Planche, Whip, Salto," a woman drops nearly everything in her life to become a trapeze performer; "Rough Like Wool" finds a pregnant wife struggling for attention from her researcher husband; and in "Grip," a pole vaulter practices his sport, but only before dawn. The story, "The Second Wife," was first published here, in The Summerset Review's Summer 2011 issue.

All of Adnot-Haynes' praise is assuredly deserved: The Year of Perfect Happiness is a work that acts as a mirror, sure to force readers to take a look at their own lives.