Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain by Lucia Perillo

Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain

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 m...

Details Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain

TitleHappiness Is a Chemical in the Brain
Release DateMay 7th, 2012
PublisherW. W. Norton Company
GenreShort Stories, Fiction, Literary Fiction, Audiobook

Reviews Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain

  • Jan Priddy
    Lucia Perillo is a brilliant writer. There are many fans, since "in 2000, when she had been named a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, the poet Rodney Jones told The Chicago Tribune: 'Her goal is lucidity. She does not like the idea of writing a poem that people cannot understand.' ” I had read her poetry and memoir and was already a fan before beginning this collection of short stories. The San Francisco Chronicle blurb on the bac...
  • Magill
    The narrators of these stories are not doing so well, financially or personally or whatever (some worse than others mind you). But the strangely jaunty tone of the author (and essentially all of the narrators) kept me feeling like there could be a laugh in the next paragraph or with the turn of a page. Which, even realizing that was not likely, allowed me to keep reading without feeling like some sort of emotional vampire drinking in the pain and...
  • Matt Braymiller
    This little collection of stories set in and around the Puget Sound area of Washington state offers up several pictures of characters making bad decisions, or living with the consequences of bad decisions, or teetering on the brinks of bad decisions. I found myself rooting for the characters as they tried to make the best of their circumstances.Sprinkled with humor and roll-your-eyes moments, these stories make it fun to peer into the depressing ...
  • George
    QUICK AND ENTERTAINING."Why it matters I don't know, because inside is always dim so that you can't see that the only decorating theme is duct tape…"—'Bad Boy Number Seventeen'Lucia Perillo is a skillful, lyrical, wordsmith. HAPPINESS IS A CHEMICAL IN THE BRAIN, is a collection of fourteen clever and imaginative, darkly melancholy, short stories—overall an entertaining listen.Recommendation: Worth a read/listen."So there was beauty and deca...
  • Jocelyn
    Lucia Perillo 1958 - 2016, first came to my attention when I read her poem: “After Reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead” in The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy. This led me to her fiction, “Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain.”Excellent short stories with sharp and startling imagery, wondrously told. What a voice, what powerful use of language. I’m especially taken with: Big-Dot Day****/ Doctor Vicks**** / The Water Cycle ...
  • Patrick Strickland
    I really enjoyed this collection of short stories. I'd like to give it somewhere closer to a 4.5. All of the stories were very well written, and most of them were very engaging. There were a few stories that tested my patience, but overall, this is a very solid collection. Highly recommended.
  • Degan Walters
    Great collection of short stories from the PNw. I love the “everyday” language and themes contrasted with the depth of character.
  • Melanie Terrell
    Good not great.
  • Kara
    #bookbingoNW2018 #characterhasadisability
  • Andrea Mullarkey
    I am growing more fond of short story collections by the week it seems. I think I have confessed before that short stories were hard for me to get into. Most often when I read I want a fully immersive experience and it always seemed to me that the long form of a novel allows for immersion better than the short form of a story. I had some idea that by being with a set of characters in a particular place for a longer time I would become more immers...
  • L
    In "Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain" Lucia Perillo has captured the very abnormally-normal people of the Pacific Northwest in a series of short stories. Her imagery is stunning; there are often entire paragraphs composed of images, but for some reason I didn't get tired of them. For example, "when she closes her eyes, she sees herself lying on her back as the fire passes over her, her eyelids burning like a piece of film stuck in a projector...
  • Ian Plenderleith
    Even if it's true that too many American short story writers over-mine the fertile interface of addiction, poverty and heartbreak, that doesn't mean they're not superb at catching the tone of ennui, hopelessness and occasional triumph that mark the lives of those not living the SUVurban dream. And in the US, someone has to pay attention, even if it's only short fiction writers with an audience several million units lower than Fox News. Just be th...
  • Eli Brooke
    Perillo's stories are full of hard-luck characters -- women mostly, some kids. They offer a rough yet dreamy reality, a place where people have given up and find solace in whatever they can sink into -- cough syrup, bad sex with broken strangers, or just the intricacies of the patterns in the wood floorboards. Perillo is an amazing wordsmith, particularly good with images and setting a mood. Her characters are sympathetic without being pitiable. ...
  • Kristine
    My gut rating was 3.5 so I rounded it up. I love short stories and Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain gave raw and real glimpses of life. The stories of the recovering alcoholic housewife who was addicted to vacuum salesmen and the stories of the boy who caught a fish, linger with me. Louisa and her sister where the most developed but I somehow did not like how the three different stories about them fit together. A few of stories were forgettab...
  • Renee
    I listened to this via audiobook, and I just couldn't stay with it. I thought maybe I just wasn't devoting enough of my attention to it, but when I sat down and listened to it while knitting and therefore not really focused on anything BUT the stories, I still found my mind wandering away. They were well-written enough, but just not what I typically read. I think my favorite story was "Ashes," which did resonate a bit somehow. I also liked Dr. Vi...
  • For Books' Sake
    "For a book with the word ‘happiness’ in the title, this nippy little collection of shorts from Pulitzer Prize-nominated American poet Lucia Perillo sure knows how to make one feel utterly depressed.Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain is a mixed bag of stories, all set around the Puget Sounds in the Pacific Northwest." (Excerpt from full review at For Books' Sake.)
  • Beth
    3.5 stars. These had a jaded humor that I really liked. Anyone Else But Me, for example, is about an older woman who fakes that she's deaf so that she won't have to talk to anyone in the exercise class that her domineering daughter makes her take. Big-Dot Day had a perfect last line, and Cavalcade of the Old West was another standout about a teenage carnival experience. My favorites were the three about Louisa and her sister: Bad Boy Number Seven...
  • Ciara
    short stories which left no impression with me whatsoever. literally the only thing i remember about this book is some vague bit about an unhappy mother of a teenage son who has just moved to a house in the woods. she follows her son one day when he is supposedly going to school & discovers that he's been hitchhiking to a mcdonald's & then climbing out on to a railroad trestle with his best friend & dodging trains. i couldn't give a rough outline...
  • Patti K
    A recent work of fiction by the poet Lucia Perillo is a strong collection full of losersjust scraping by, rebel eccentrics having their way. It starts somewhat slowly, but gathersmomentum and curiousity as it unfolds. Great details and dialogue enhance the odd storiesthat seem to want to respect the choices and the endurance of bad luck. Most take place inthe Pacific Northwest with its Puget Sound and great forests, which adds to the appeal. I ho...
  • Peggy
    While on the hold list for Perillo's latest poetry collection I ordered her short stories. I know this really is blasphemy, but i put aside Sherman Alexie's "Blasphemy" because when I read the first story "Cry, Cry, Cry" I realized it just wasn't going to work for me while facing the holidays. Not that Perillo's stories were any less raw or realistic in places, just smoother, sometimes deceptive enough to go down easily and then hit you later. Pe...
  • Amanda Byrne
    I want to say I liked this book. And I did. But my end reaction was similar to Junot Diaz's Drown: Engaging while I was reading it, but I'd put it down and not feel compelled to pick it back up immediately. Hence the three star rating.Perillo's writing is spare and elegant, the descriptions lovely and sometimes haunting. The collection makes a good case for picking up one of her full length novels.
  • Lauren
    I liked these, especially the linked stories about two adult sisters, one developmentally disabled. There is a great sense of time and place. Perillo writes esp well about how women deal with memories of their younger selves. The title story is very different from the rest in the collection, more impressionistic and fantastic,with a stunning ending drawing on Perillo's background in wildlife management.
  • René
    Two and a half stars. Lucia is a wonderful poet and a good writer. The stories in this collection are pretty well-crafted. But I didn't find them very emotionally satisfying or altogether memorable. The last two in the collection were the weakest in the bunch. Would still read another collection of hers if she produces more short stories in the future though.
  • Holly
    I don't know why I decided to read this at the same time as Townie - I wanted something "gritty"? Unfortunately, Dubus wins this match. Two stars because the stories were just "okay" for me, but Perillo's language is interesting and colorful (she's a poet, after all, so I'd have been surprised if it weren't).
  • Shawn
    What a great writer! It's unfortunate, because the low 3 star rating on this collection may put some readers off. These stories are worth digesting. Each voice felt distinct -- something that short story writers can struggle to pull off -- and each character felt honest. I am definitely interested in other work by this gifted storyteller.
  • AV Dept
    Really good collection of short stories that take place in the pacific northwest.This is the first fiction book written by this poet and specially Downs Syndromesister in several of the stories
  • Sarah
    Listened to this collection of short stories on audiobook. I thought it was so-so. Perhaps some of the nuance of the writing got lost in just listening rather than reading. The writing was good enough, just was not very entertaining or thought-provoking to me.
  • Erin Christine
    3.5 actually. I think I made a mistake listening to this; the stories should have been read, in my opinion, in one sitting each to really appreciate the characters. I was impressed with the depth of characters given only short stories to round them out.
  • Jim
    Well, there's certainly no one happy in this book. Well written with occasional vivid imagery, but overall I was not sure that the author empathized with her characters who were often women making the same mistakes (usually poor choices in men) over and over without learning.
  • Steve
    This is a sad collection of short stories. That's not a condemnation of the writing: the stories are just plain sad. So there's that.They are lyrical, light as a feather, and each of them seem to end as if they are floating in air. Good stuff.