After his father’s suicide, fourteen-year-old Happy O’Neill struggles with addiction and an inclination for self-harm. His mother, working several jobs, struggling with single parenthood, and at a loss as to how she can reach Happy, commits her son to a high security psych ward. Despite the rigidity of the ward, and the vigilant oversight of its staff, Happy becomes embroiled in a romantic triangle that will change everything.
Told in small chapters of spare language, The Tragedy of Being Happy explores the depths of mental illness and adolescence, and the divide between those who live with it and those who exist “on the other side.” The poetic pacing feeds into the sense of a separation, the struggle to overcome it, and poignantly demonstrates that the human need for connection transcends illness.
“The beauty of William Alton’s new work The Tragedy of Being Happy is vivid and jagged…he writes of loss and anguish, punctuated by rich descriptions of a pervading fierceness.”
– Carole Zoom, disability activist