Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press


A Novel

by Aminatta Forna

A delicate tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, from Aminatta Forna.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 320
  • Publication Date March 06, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2755-6
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date March 06, 2018
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6557-2
  • US List Price $26.00

About the Book

London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide—Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech. From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna’s unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments of connection.

Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his “niece,” Ama, who hasn’t called home in a while. Ama has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.

When, by chance, Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the neighborhood rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens—mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London—come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds.

Meanwhile a consulting case causes Attila to question the impact of his own ideas on trauma, the values of the society he finds himself in, and a grief of his own. In this delicate tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, Forna asks us to consider the interconnectedness of lives, our coexistence with one another and all living creatures, and the true nature of happiness.

Tags Literary


“Piercingly empathetic, Forna’s latest explores instinct, resilience, and the complexity of human coexistence, reaffirming her reputation for exceptional ability and perspective.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“The overarching message tucked into Scottish and Sierra Leonian writer Forna’s quietly resonant novel is this: Every living thing is the net sum of its history, and we carry the weight of our past on our shoulders.…Intricately woven…Forna’s novel is ultimately a mesmerizing tale studded with exquisite writing” Booklist (starred review)

“Aminatta Forna expertly weaves her characters’ stories, past and present, in and out of the larger story of London, which becomes as rich a character as the human beings and, indeed, the foxes; and she makes us care deeply about them all, the foxes, the people and the city. A terrific novel.”—Salman Rushdie, author of The Golden House

“From the understated and inexorable pull of plot and emotion to the luxuriousness of the details of varied ways of living and being to the tidal pull of language, Happiness is a great accomplishment.” —Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees

“Aminatta Forna has crafted a complex and deeply human story. African in its worldview of convergence and simultaneity, yet universal in its range of possibility and choice. Nuanced and delightful, this story takes place inside the reader’s own nostalgia. Gorgeous.” —Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas

Happiness is one of the best novels I’ve read in quite a while—intelligent, deep, and poignant. It sheds smooth, unflinching light upon the unseen. Forna is at the top of her game.” —Rabih Alameddine, author of The Angel of History and An Unnecessary Woman

Happiness is a deeply moving novel about love, trauma, and the ties that bind us together. Beautifully written and ingeniously allegorical. Aminatta Forna is a writer of phenomenal talent, with a clear eye, a fearless voice, and an extraordinary range.”—Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account


He turned his head back to her and Jean looked away. There was, she thought, a moment between men and women in which a woman can no longer meet a certain man’s gaze. Men held the power of the gaze, the freedom to look upon women as they pleased. In public a woman looked freely only upon men with whom there was no possibility of sex or the mistaken presumption of desire, in other words the very (very) old and the very young. In company women looked at men who might be colleagues or neighbours or married to women they knew, but even then their gaze was guarded. The moment friendship transformed into something else the woman looked away.

For the first time since she met Attila, Jean found she couldn’t look at him as easily as she once surely had, when she had sat with him on the bench overlooking the Thames, walking the streets of the capital, in the cafe. She felt that if their eyes were to meet he would see what was inside. She could feel him looking at her as she poured the coffee, though he said nothing as he accepted the cup she passed. Attila took a single sip of his coffee and set the cup down on the table. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I have something to which I must attend.”

Author Tour Dates



Washington, DC

5015 Connecticut Ave NW

5:00 PM


Seattle, WA

Co-presented by Elliott Bay Book Co.
1000 Fourth Avenue

7:00 PM


Corta Madera, CA

In conversation with Isabel Allende
51 Tamal Vista Boulevard

7:00 PM


Los Angeles, CA

In conversation with Laila Lalami
1818 North Vermont Ave

7:30 PM


Houston, TX

In conversation with Samanta Schweblin
Alley Theatre
615 Texas Avenue

7:30 PM


Dallas, TX

Luncheon Event
10720 Preston Road

12:00 PM


Cambridge, MA

In conversation with Claire Messud
1256 Massachusetts Ave

7:00 PM


New York, NY

In conversation with Alan Hollinghurst
Buttenwieser Hall
1395 Lexington Avenue

8:00 PM


New York, NY

With Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Alicia Kopf, and Xiaolu Guo
Baruch College, Engelman Recital Hall
55 Lexington Avenue

6:00 PM


New York, NY

PEN WORLD VOICES FESTIVAL – “Reflections on Violence
With Colm Toibin
Dixon Place
161-A Chrystie St

2:30 PM