Have you ever wondered what would happen if one of the thousands of self-help books on the market actually worked? Author Will Ferguson obviously has, as that is the premise of his novel Happiness. The book follows the adventures of Edwin de Valu, a disillusioned man who works at a publishing house, has an unhappy marriage to an annoyingly perky woman and looks at life with a skepticís eye. One day, while wading through the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts at work, he runs across a mammoth book by a self-proclaimed guru entitled What I Learned on the Mountain. Although he intends to send it back with a rejection slip, he instead finds himself pitching it to his boss as the newest self-help book for their upcoming catalogue.
Edwin begins the grueling task of editing the thousand-page manuscript down to a manageable length, only to find that the author, the mysterious Tupak Soiree, insists he publish it as is. Due to an iron-clad contract, Edwin must honor Tupakís wishes or risk getting sued. The publishing house plans a limited release, hoping they can recoup some of their losses when the book bombs. However, after the book is released, something amazing begins happening. People all over the country begin being happy. The book becomes a national bestseller and it seems that everyone has a copy. Before Edwinís eyes, the mentality of the nation quickly shifts to that of relaxed, easy-going people who no longer care about material possessions, fashion or money. Tupak Soiree is a national celebrity, appearing on talk shows and infomercials and even attracting a concubine.
Edwin, however, knows something is very wrong with the situation. He decides to seek out Tupak to find out how he has hoodwinked the entire nation into believing his book holds all the answers. Can he succeed before the world is irrevocably changed, in Edwinís mind, for the worse?
Happiness succeeds on many levels, mainly because of the inventive concept that anyone who has ever picked up a self-help book can relate to. The story is told well, with plenty of colorful characters to help the plot along. Unfortunately, the main character, Edwin, isnít exactly likeable and weíre never really shown how the book was so successful in the first place. However, despite these flaws, the book is still enjoyable, thought-provoking and worth a read.