Refreshing, simple, and heartwarming – these perfectly describe The Happiness of Kati by J. Vejjajiva, translated by P. Borthwick (Book number 11). Originally written in Thai, this book followed the life of Kati, a nine year old girl, as she discovered the puzzle which is her past and went on to make the decisions to face and shape her future.
It is a family drama like The Memory Keeper’s Daughter but I enjoyed it more because the story telling is clean, fresh, and open. The atmosphere is pretty positive even when the characters are facing dire conditions and this leaves you a pretty hopeful feeling which is really nice(a big change from the last few books I’ve read).
The Happiness of Kati also treats you to a glimpse of Thai living, culture, and setting and it is beautifully transporting. The strength of the book is in the handling of the plot and the spot on sprinkling of life’s wisdom. Everything is presented in a way that makes sense and it is not cheesy at all – it could have been because the elements are there: Kati does not know her past, her mother has left her to live with her grandparents, she finds out her mother is gravely ill and dying, and after her mother died, she eventually makes a decision on whether or not she wanted to meet her father with a nice twist at the end. The story was woven nicely and so light I finished it in one sitting, really sweet.
There are not many lines but the descriptions were not overwhelming. It was occasionally funny too and the symbols on life, learning, love, and grief were ultra cool. The epigraphs were very nice too and they are some of the most memorable bits from The Happiness of Kati (made into a movie in 2009). What I liked best about it is that the world view the author presented do not muck about:
Sometimes life plays such strange tricks on us… hard to believe that tomorrow the sun would shine as usual [but] life… goes on… Living in the present is no easy matter [so] leave the shadows of the past and be free and happy.
The Happiness of Kati touched longing, loss, sickness, isolation, and death but in a surprisingly innocent, fresh, and positive way. The only let down in this book is that I’m not completely sold on the decisions Kati made at the end – I’m not sure those actions belonged to a nine year old (like my huge problem with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon). But all in all, The Happiness of Kati is a thumbs up. I don’t want to give away too much because I want you to discover The Happiness of Kati yourself and be charmed and revitalized to always – always – look forward no matter what.
On the photo: My copy of The Happiness of Kati from my Thai friend, sitting on the desk for a year and finally being read, savored, and enjoyed just now. 🙂