Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo
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Synopsis

A stunning debut from an award-winning poet.


Populating a small town in the Pacific Northwest, the characters in Lucia Perillo’s story collection all resist giving the world what it expects of them and are surprised when the world comes roaring back.



An addict trapped in a country house becomes obsessed with vacuum cleaners and the people who sell them door-to-door. An abandoned woman seeks consolation in tales of armed robbery told by one of her fellow suburban housewives. An accidental mother struggles to answer her daughter’s badgering about her paternity. And in three stories readers meet Louisa, a woman with Down syndrome who serves as an accomplice to her younger sister’s sexual exploits and her aging mother’s fantasies of revenge.



Together, Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain is a sharp-edged, witty testament to the ambivalence of emotions, the way they pull in directions that often cancel one another out or twist their subjects into knots. In lyrical prose, Perillo draws on her training as a naturalist and a poet to map the terrain of the comic and the tragic, asking how we draw the boundaries between these two zones. What’s funny, what’s heartbreaking, and who gets to decide?
 

About Lucia Perillo

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Lucia Perillo is the author of five books of poetry, one of which, Inseminating the Elephant, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She was also awarded a MacArthur genius grant. She lives in Olympia, Washington.
 
Published May 7, 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company. 225 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain

Kirkus Reviews

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My romances have left me with a recurring dream in which I’m slashing tires and the tires’ blood is spilling out.” Throughout the fiction, blood ties are tenuous, commitment is provisional, and fate is arbitrary: “She packed her things and headed west, and when she hit the ocean and could go no f...

Apr 22 2012 | Read Full Review of Happiness Is a Chemical in th...

Publishers Weekly

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MacArthur Fellow and Pulitzer Prize–nominated poet Perillo debuts a work of fiction in a lyrical short story collection that reveals a genius for plot and metaphor.

Mar 26 2012 | Read Full Review of Happiness Is a Chemical in th...

Washington Independent Review of Books

Lucia Perillo has a poet’s eye and economy, qualities that shine through in the 14 stories that make up her debut fiction collection.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Narrating the Louisa Trilogy, as I like to think of them, is Louisa's younger sister, a sharp-tongued ex-junkie who has a penchant for bad boys.

May 27 2012 | Read Full Review of Happiness Is a Chemical in th...

Oregon Live

Near the end of her poem titled "A Simple Campsong," Lucia Perillo writes, "All I wanted was the drunks, bunch of snaggle-toothed losers who lived in trailers in the woods.

May 26 2012 | Read Full Review of Happiness Is a Chemical in th...

Fiction Writers Review

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May 22 2012 | Read Full Review of Happiness Is a Chemical in th...

Fiction Writers Review

Blog (339) Anne Stameshkin (299) Celeste Ng (263) writers on writing (255) novel (217) Review (176) short stories (171) debut novel (153) Book of the Week (149) craft (133) Lee Thomas (117) lit and tech (111) recommended reading (109) FWR news (102) publishing (102) debut story collection (98) in...

May 15 2012 | Read Full Review of Happiness Is a Chemical in th...

Fiction Writers Review

The prose is so unabashedly honest that you will follow these characters wherever they’re headed: a mother who spies on her son through the woods, a sister whose main goal in life is to stay fourteen forever, a woman recovering from alcohol abuse and seventeen Bad Boys, a wife who fantasizes abou...

May 11 2012 | Read Full Review of Happiness Is a Chemical in th...

Fiction Writers Review

This week’s feature is Lucia Perillo’s debut story collection, Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain (W.W.

May 15 2012 | Read Full Review of Happiness Is a Chemical in th...

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