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The Illicit Happiness of Other People

A Novel

Manu Joseph (Author)

Overview | Inside the Book

A quirky and darkly comic take on domestic life in southern India.

Ousep Chacko, journalist and failed novelist, prides himself on being “the last of the real men.” This includes waking neighbors upon returning late from the pub. His wife Mariamma stretches their money, raises their two boys, and, in her spare time, gleefully fantasizes about Ousep dying. One day, their seemingly happy seventeen-year-old son Unni—an obsessed comic-book artist—falls from the balcony, leaving them to wonder whether it was an accident. Three years later, Ousep receives a package that sends him searching for the answer, hounding his son’s former friends, attending a cartoonists’ meeting, and even accosting a famous neurosurgeon. Meanwhile, younger son Thoma, missing his brother, falls head over heels for the much older girl who befriended them both. Haughty and beautiful, she has her own secrets. The Illicit Happiness of Other People—a smart, wry, and poignant novel—teases you with its mystery, philosophy, and unlikely love story.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • January 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-393-33862-1
  • 5.5 × 8.2 in / 352 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide, excluding Canada, the British Commonwealth and the European Union.

Endorsements & Reviews

“Starred review. Joseph writes with extraordinary wit, cunning and sympathy about both family relationships and ultimate mysteries.” — Kirkus Reviews

“The novel is an admirable blend of plot and ideas, of a story that reads like a mystery but also of the kind of philosophical and social observations that are worth pausing for and underlining. ...Indeed, with Happiness, Joseph has made a convincing case for exploring the depths of joy the way so many of his predecessors have plunged into melancholy.” — Jaime Netzer, Kirkus Reviews

“...Joseph’s prose is exquisitely phrased without an excess of sentimentality... the confident, immersing voice of Illicit Happiness promises readers this is not the last we’ve heard of Manu Joseph.” — The Telegraph (UK)

“Wonderful... The Illicit Happiness of Other People...injects dark, rueful laughter into an immensely touching story of loss.” — Wall Street Journal

The Illicit Happiness of Other People is ambitious. It is the story of a family getting to know itself, of a socialist India that no longer exists and of a society obsessed with grades. It is a plot-driven yarn with themes of morality, sexuality, psychiatry and yet more science and philosophy.... But it does not feel overburdened.... Quite an achievement.” — The Economist

The Illicit Happiness of Other People is both a terribly funny and deeply sad story.... Beautifully written.... Manu Joseph perfectly captures his characters in his precise, sharp prose.” — Ariel Balter, New York Journal of Books

“Ingeniously constructed.... [Joseph is] using his witty, incisive writing to explore the great philosophical questions of happiness and life.” — Manil Suri, author of The City of Devi

“Joseph’s smart new novel is laced with black humor and keen observations on human nature... Joseph’s rich characters intersect in moments of tenderness.” — Publishers Weekly

“Sublime.... Joseph’s witty narrative adds depth and vigor to the Chacko family’s tale and assuredly explores the complexity of self-perception amid present-day life.” — Leah Strauss, Booklist

“Fusing ribald farce with poignant drama... Joseph deftly rotates narrative points of view... [and] embellishes each strand with vibrant dabs of local color... that help showcase India in all its sublime and absurd glory.... Wild, irreverent and blackly comic.” — Malcolm Forbes, Star Tribune

“Joseph’s prose is exquisitely phrased without an excess of sentimentality.... The confident, immersing voice of Illicit Happiness promises readers this is not the last we’ve heard of Manu Joseph.” — Telegraph (UK)

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