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Happy Place
(Review, Summary & Spoilers)

By Emily Henry



Book review and synopsis for Happy Place by Emily Henry, a somewhat bittersweet second-chance romance set during a weeklong getaway for a group of college friends.

Synopsis

In Happy Place by Emily Henry, Harriet and Wyn are a recently un-engaged couple, but they haven't told anyone, including their group of close-knit college friends, about their broken engagement yet.

When their annual summer trip to Maine rolls around, the whole gang gathers at an idyllic summer beach house, and Harriet and Wynn find themselves thrust together again for the week. They're left pretending to be engaged and in love, though in reality they haven't seen each other in five months and certainly haven't discussed the finer details of their broken engagement.

In this thoughtful but somewhat bittersweet second-chance romance, Harriet and Wyn navigate their breakup while trying to figure out what to do with the feelings that don't seem to have gone away -- all with the backdrop of a beautiful Maine coast, old friends and rolling waves.

(The Full Plot Summary is also available, below)

Full Plot Summary

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary
See the Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of Happy Place
Quick Plot Summary

The two-paragraph version: a group of college friends - Harriet, Sabrina, Cleo, Kimmy, Parth and Wynn - meet up at a vacation home in Maine for the week, and Sabrina and Parth announce that they're having a small wedding at the end of the week. Harriet and Wynn have recently broken their engagement and the others don't know. They decide to wait until after the wedding to prevent derailing the week and the wedding. Harriet is still in love with Wyn, but they have been long distance since he decided to move home to Montana to care for his mother. He is also happier there. After a week of struggling with their feelings, Harriet and Wyn finally address how they broke up because even though they have strong feelings for each other and love each other, Wyn is happier in Montana, and Harriet needs to finish her residency in California.

Meanwhile, Sabrina gets in a fight with the group because she feels like they are growing apart and she's the only one keeping them together. In her despondent state, she also walks out on Parth. Additionally, Sabrina already knew about Harriet's breakup, and she accuses Harriet of being apathetic about their friendship and her relationship with Wyn. Harriet realizes she never "learned how to fight" and that she does want to fight for her relationship with Wyn. Harriet and Wyn talk out some things, and Harriet says she's doesn't like being a doctor. She dislikes never having energy for anything else and mainly did it for her parents. She offers to move to Montana. However, Wyn tells her that she needs to figure out what she wants because just following him around wouldn't be enough for her. Sabrina makes up with the group, with them reminding her that conflict doesn't mean they can't resolve things and won't be in each others' lives forever. They remind her that just because her parents let her down all the time, doesn't mean that others like Parth will and that he's there to stay. Sabrina and Parth get married. Harriet is about to board the flight home, but realizes that Wyn is wrong and just scared -- she's not unsure at all about what she wants. She finds Wyn, and they agree to go home to Montana together.


In Chapters 1-10, a group of college friends - Harriet, Sabrina, Cleo, Kimmy, Parth and Wynn - get together at a vacation home in Maine for the week. The problem is, Harriet and Wyn have broken their engagement, and they haven't told the rest of the group yet. Before they can get everyone else up to date, Sabrina and Parth announce that they're engaged and having the wedding here at the end of the week. When Sabrina talks about how nervous she is about marriage and what an inspiration she considers Harriet and Wynn's relationship to be, the two of them agree that announcing their breakup could risk derailing the weekend and the wedding. The group has also been coming up to Sabrina's family's vacation home during the summer since they met, but the house is being sold so this is will be their final trip to the house.

Meanwhile, the book traces back through the beginnings of their friendship. Harriet, Sabrina and Cleo were assigned as roommates, and Sabrina met Parth in a pre-law course. When Parth's roommates moved out, the three women moved in. Then, when Harriet left to study abroad, Wyn was returning from studying abroad and replaced Harriet. Wyn and Harriet meet that summer and there's romantic tension.

When the school year resumes, Parth has now graduated and has gone off to law school at Fordham in NYC. Wyn has to stay in college an extra year after failing to meet the graduation requirements. So, he and the three women all move into a new apartment together. Harriet's feelings for Wyn deepen, though still nothing happens between them.

In Chapters 11-21, in present day, Tuesday afternoon, Harriet and Wyn get locked in the wine cellar together by accident. She asks him if he's seeing anyone but he gets upset at the question, referencing her own relationship with someone else. Things are tense with them that night as they sort of revenge-flirt with one another until they agree to a truce. On Wednesday, the group goes to see a double-feature, gets high and rides a Ferris Wheel at the town's annual Lobster Fest. Afterwards, they go home and run into the pool and Harriet and Wyn kiss. They go back to their room and start to take things further, but Wyn stops it, saying he doesn't want to hurt her.

Meanwhile, the book continues to flash back to reveal their history. The summer before graduation, Harriet and Wyn share a kiss in the wine cellar at the house. They proceed to secretly hook up. The four of them all move to New York - Harriet and Sabrina for med school and law school at Columbia, respectively, Cleo joins an urban farm in NYC, and Wyn moves as well. All five of them share an apartment together. Harriet and Wyn's hookup continues. After a few months, they go on a date, exchange "I love you"s and announce their relationship to the group. Ten months in, she meets his family in Montana and falls in love with them, too. When Cleo moves to Brazil, Wyn and Harriet move into an apartment together. Harriet is blissfully happy. Wyn proposes.

Chapters 22-29. In present day, on Thursday, there is some tension between Sabrina and Cleo. Sabrina had wanted to visit her farm last month, but Cleo had cancelled the visit, saying they were too busy. Sabrina brings it up again, still wanting an invite, and Cleo is getting increasingly irritated.

Meanwhile, in more flashbacks, after the proposal, Harriet and Wyn travel to Indiana to tell her family. The visit is stilted, and her parents are cold, as usual. Her mom disapproves of the marriage, saying that he doesn't seem right for Harriet, who is training to be a brain surgeon. She thinks Wyn is someone who seems like he will move back to his hometown and just want to focus on raising a family. Afterwards, Harriet suggest holding off on the wedding and when residency starts she knows it'll have to wait until after that's over.

Then, Wyn's father dies. Wyn is plunged into a dark place and doesn't want to talk about it. Harriet is very busy with work. Then, Wyn's mother is diagnosed with Parkinson's. They go to see her for a few days, and Wyn seems happy for the first time in a while. When Harriet heads back, Wyn decides to stick around for a month, but after a month that gets extended as well. Harriet is busy, and she becomes close to some fellow residents. There are some missed phone calls when Wyn calls. Finally one night one of Harriet's friends, Martin, tries to kiss her. She stops it and immediately tells Wyn, but he responds by saying that their relationship isn't working. He breaks up with her over the phone and sends her stuff back two days later.

In present day, on Friday, Harriet and Wyn find a bakery to pick up a cake for the wedding. Harriet asks Wyn about a text she saw accidentally and it turns out he's been building and selling high end furniture very successfully. She tells him how proud of him he is. That night, Harriet finally asks Wyn about their breakup. He says initially he was depressed, felt like he wasn't good enough for her and all her brilliant friends and felt like she didn't care when she was too busy for him and started missing his phone calls. Now, he's on medication and happy at home and he's feeling better. He understands now that she does care and love him, and that he still has feelings for her and loves her -- but it still doesn't change anything. He's finally happy in Montana. She needs to be in California for the next few years and that's what right for her.

Chapters 32 - 40. Friday night, Sabrina wants to get matching tattoos to commemorate their final trip to the house. These summer trips with her family had been the bright spot in her lonely childhood with her neglectful parents. Now, the house is being sold and she's watching her friend group grow apart. She wants the tattoo as a reminder and to keep them bonded. Harriet tells her no and finally explains that she and Wyn have broken up and she doesn't want matching tattoos with him. Sabrina reveals that she already knew they were broken up (Parth figured it out a few weeks ago due to seeing their message history on Wyn's phone) -- and that she's been trying to help them get back together. Harriet is furious because this week has been torture for her. Sabrina in turn accuses Harriet of being apathetic about their friendship and her relationship with Wyn. Cleo also feels Sabrina has forced this week on them, and they part angrily.

That night, Harriet realizes that Sabrina is right about her not fighting for what she wants. She never learned how to fight. By trying to avoid conflict all the time, she's also pushed people away. Harriet goes to Wyn to tell him she wants to fight and figure things out and that she doesn't want him to leave. They have sex. The next morning, they talk out some things, and Harriet says she's doesn't like being a doctor. She dislikes never having energy for anything else and mainly did it for her parents. She offers to move to Montana. However, Wyn tells her that she shouldn't do that. Instead, she needs to figure out what she wants because just following him around wouldn't be enough for her.

Cleo tells Harriet that she's pregnant, and she's been busy with baby stuff which is why she didn't have the capacity to host Sabrina. Harriet encourages her to tell Sabrina, but when they go looking for her, Parth tells them that he and Sabrina got into a fight and she left. They search for Sabrina and find her at the chapel where her parents once got married. Sabrina makes up with the group, with them reminding her that conflict doesn't mean they can't resolve things and won't be in each others' lives forever. They remind her that just because her parents let her down all the time, doesn't mean that others like Parth will and that he's there to stay. Sabrina and Parth get married.

Harriet is about to board the flight home, but realizes that Wyn is wrong and just scared -- she's not unsure at all about what she wants. She's about to leave the airport, but Wyn shows up looking for her. They talk and agree to go home to Montana together. The book ends with them having their Save the Date pinned on the fridge, and Harriet being happy and ready to figure out what's in store for her.

For more detail, see the full Chapter-by-Chapter Summary.

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Book Review

Happy Place by Emily Henry came out last spring, and I’ve been wanting to read it, partially because I’ve read the rest of her books thus far and have found them reliably sweet and charming. Decked out in bright colors like Happy Place’s candy-pink shell, Emily Henry’s books embody the idea of a summer romance, and there’s something comforting about diving into one of her pleasantly upbeat and romantic stories.

I was surprised then, that despite it’s title, Happy Place is, interestingly enough, actually the least upbeat of Emily Henry’s romances so far.

The crux of the story involves a couple, Harriet and Wyn, whose engagement has broken up. They haven’t told their group of close-knit college friends yet, but they’re brought together for a week-long getaway after spending some months apart. They feel compelled to stay there and stay quiet about their breakup when they learn that a small wedding is taking place at the end of the week, and that the bride is already wrestling with trying to believe in everlasting love.

Henry approaches this premise in a sincere and at times unflinching way. Instead of the silly hijinks you might find in some romances, Harriet and Wyn are just people who are struggling with their emotions. These are two people who love each other, but have been hurt by one another and are conflicted by the circumstances. When Harriet sees Wyn, she sees someone who loves her, but also someone who has disappointed her and broken her heart without much explanation.

There’s a dull ache that permeates through much of the book. As the story retraces their romantic history, even the happy moments feel a little sad, knowing what’s to come for the couple. “You can trust me,” Wyn says to Harriet when they first embark on their relationship, and her heart quietly opens, but we already know he’s going to let her down.

Henry blunts the edges of this not-entirely-cheerful premise by focusing on the bond that this group of friends share. The group originally starts with three women – Harriet, Sabrina and Cleo – who are assigned to be roommates in college, and Henry tenderly depicts a loving and loyal friendship between these three very different women, which gives the rest of the story a warm glow.

As with her other books, I like that Emily Henry’s novels generally have fun, romantic, summery premises, but that she approaches them with a certain consideration and sincerity that elevates the story. I think this novel is well done, like the rest of her romances. But it definitely struck a different tone for me than the others.

The majority of the story takes place on a summery vacation home off the coast of Maine that the friends revisit each year, but the “beach vibes” of this story are often overshadowed by the “sad, conflicted and disappointed vibes” of the main storyline. It’s still a romance novel, I suppose, but the tone of that romance is often more bittersweet than sweet. Harriet and Wyn share intimate moments, and then she listens to him talk about a future that no longer includes her.

Of course, this is a second-chance romance novel, so it’s not all just heartbreak and disappointment. But there is something different and fragile about a second-chance romance compared to something new, shiny and exciting. There’s a heaviness to their stolen moments, as opposed to the weightlessness of a new romance.

Read it or Skip it?

I’ve become more a fan of Emily Henry’s novels, even if I wasn’t exactly in the right mindset for this one. I love that there is an author that is writing romance in a way that this thoughtful and sincere, while still being fun and often charming.

If you like Emily Henry’s novels and are down with the premise, it’s as solid a novel as the rest of her books. I think as long as you know what you’re getting into, it’s well worth a read. I think this title is quite well done and goes deep into each character’s motivations and fears. But it has a notably different overall tone than her previous summer beach romance offerings. More bittersweet than sweet. More unsure and apprehensive than exhilarating and urgent.

I went into this blind — I saw the cover, I knew who wrote it and I started reading. I was expecting and quite frankly hoping for something more breezy and upbeat, so I don’t know that I would have chosen this right now if I had known more about the premise. But I am glad I read it, and in many ways it’s a more worthwhile read in terms of substance than some of her other books.

And I know I’ll still be eagerly diving into the next Emily Henry novel for sure!

See Happy Place on Amazon.

Happy Place Audiobook Review

Narrator: Julia Whelan
Length: 11 hours 2 minutes

I only listened to a few bits of this, not because I didn’t like the audiobook, but because I was just in the mood to sit down and read a physical book.

I’ve listened to a number of Julia Whelan-narrated audiobooks, and I have found her narration very pleasant to listen to. So, no, I didn’t listen to most of this on audiobook, but the parts I did listen to were solid and I’d bet the rest of it is, too.

Hear a sample of the Happy Place audiobook on Libro.fm.

Book Excerpt

Read the first pages of Happy Place



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