Sabrina Orah Mark's Happily is a bubbling cauldron filled with 26 essays formed from ingredients as diverse as parenting and premonitions, mythological creatures and marriage, mothers and sons, fairies and witches, and always there is magic. As with her column in the Paris Review (also called "Happily"), readers who follow the path of crumbs Mark lays out enter willingly into a dream sequence of an essay, where one incongruent thing can lead to the next, forming its own kind of coherence and truth.
In the opening essay ("Ghost People"), she walks a perimeter of concern around her son, who, she learns, is making Ghost People out of wood chips on the playground at school. After a brief narrative to set readers on her chosen path, she turns to Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, wondering, "Maybe because Geppetto understands that sometimes the things we create to protect us, to give us good fortune, need first to thin us into a vulnerability where the only thing that can save us are those things that almost erased us.... Or maybe it's just that Geppetto is lonely." At first glance, these two moments don't match, hanging loosely together as they do. But as Mark works, she proves herself worthy of every confidence.
In another essay, Mark explains that "Fairy tales are homemade stories turned inside out. You can see the threads, the stitching line, the seams." Mark's essays do much the same work, often ending somewhere far from where the reader may have expected; however, it is always exactly as it should be, the only "ever after" that could have come from such a "Happily" beginning. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian