Book Review: This is Happy by Camilla Gibb

It’s rare that I will pick up a memoir. As a rule, they just aren’t my genre. But after reading excerpts in the Globe & Mail of Camilla Gibb’s ‘This is Happy’, I knew I was going to have to break the rules and pick this one up.

I’m so glad that I did. At once poetic and real, flowing and raw, it was a revelation; a revelation that I was not alone in the universe. The circumstances of our lives are so very different but so much of what Ms. Gibb said resonated with me.

From the prologue where she talks about her frustration with her child:

“You are the daughter of someone relatively quiet and tending toward the serious. I’m sorry for not understanding that these things are part of who you are, too. I’m sorry for having been so afraid. For having failed to relax enough to know this about you; for having failed to share with you who I am.”

I understand her. My moments of sheer and total frustration as a parent come when I don’t look at my daughter as a three dimensional person with feelings and thoughts of her own. When I’m trying to get something done and I barrel right past the fact that she is trying to tell me something. These are the moments I regret.

Writing about her partner, Anna and wondering about her abrupt departure from their family fold:

“My best conclusion is that people do what they need to do for themselves and ultimately that trumps any other consideration. Perhaps they want to spare you by not telling you much. Perhaps they just want to spare themselves. Without the whole story, though, you are left with only shards of evidence and your own imagination, bits out of which to construct a story that might allow you, eventually, in a best-case scenario, to integrate the loss and continue living.”

After harbouring hope that Anna would return and finally realizing that she would not, Ms. Gibb wrote:

“You have a baby at home, an empty fridge, groceries to deliver. It doesn’t matter that you are bleeding all over the grocery store floor. You have to stand. You have to stand. The fuck. Up.”

I’ve been asked by many newly separated friends and acquaintances about how to cope. And really, the best strategy is to stand the fuck up. Because you don’t have any other choice and even more so when there are children involved. You have to stand up. You have to put one foot in front of the other and take it one day at a time. Platitudes they may be, but they worked for me. And they worked for Ms. Gibb.

“Until a year and a half ago, I had some sense of what the rest of my life might look like. There is no longer a map. It’s not a question of finding my feet, but of growing new ones. Trying to be a parent, teach a child how to be in the world, when I have lost the way.”

Lest you think this book is depressing and heavy, let me disabuse you of that notion. It’s a story – her story, without all the details but with the emotions. It’s beautifully written and worth every page turned.


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