In Happiness Sold Separately, Lolly Winston shows a marriage in trouble. Elinor and Ted have been trying to have children, but despite going through just about every method of assisted reproduction available, they have failed. In the process, they have grown further apart. Elinor, a successful lawyer, now spends much of her free time doing laundry. Ted, a podiatrist, is hurt that Elinor will hardly talk to him, and is having an affair with Gina, his personal trainer at the gym. The novel starts out with Elinor discovering the affair, and Ted moves out. Yet the two of them still love each other, and yearn to solve their problems. The question of the novel is whether they will be able work through all the pain they have experienced and reconnect.
As with her previous novel, Good Grief, Winston paints a vivid psychological portrait of her characters. Although the novel is told in the third person, she goes takes Elinor, Ted and Gina's points of view when each takes center stage. We see how their behavior seems reasonable from their perspective, even in the case of Ted's affair with Gina. Winston gets into the heads of her characters and also includes plenty of dialog, so the book is an easy read. There are several twists and turns of the plot, and this gives it a flavor of soap opera. Elinor and Ted go through so many heart wrenching events that it becomes impossible to see how they could be happy either together or apart. The book comes to a rather abrupt close, with one character making a decision that provides a sort of resolution, but it is not a particularly convincing ending. Nevertheless, this second novel is more complex than Winston's debut work, and on the whole it is satisfying.
© 2007 Christian Perring. All rights reserved.
Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Reviews. His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.