Extended Audio Sample

Download The Underside of Joy Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The Underside of Joy Audiobook, by Seré Prince Halverson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,006 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Seré Prince Halverson Narrator: Geneva Carr Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2012 ISBN: 9781101538531
Regular Price: $19.95 Add to Cart
— or —
FlexPass™ Price: $13.95$5.95$5.95 for new members!
Add to Cart learn more )

Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson's compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.

To Ella Beene, happiness means living in the northern California river town of Elbow with her husband, Joe, and his two young children. Yet one summer day Joe breaks his own rule-never turn your back on the ocean-and a sleeper wave strikes him down, drowning not only the man but his many secrets.

For three years, Ella has been the only mother the kids have known and has believed that their biological mother, Paige, abandoned them. But when Paige shows up at the funeral, intent on reclaiming the children, Ella soon realizes there may be more to Paige and Joe's story. "Ella's the best thing that's happened to this family," say her close-knit Italian-American in-laws, for generations the proprietors of a local market. But their devotion quickly falters when the custody fight between mother and stepmother urgently and powerfully collides with Ella's quest for truth.

The Underside of Joy is not a fairy-tale version of stepmotherhood pitting good Ella against evil Paige, but an exploration of the complex relationship of two mothers. Their conflict uncovers a map of scars-both physical and emotional-to the families' deeply buried tragedies, including Italian internment camps during World War II and postpartum psychosis.

Weaving a rich fictional tapestry abundantly alive with the glorious natural beauty of the novel's setting, Halverson is a captivating guide through the flora and fauna of human emotion-grief and anger, shame and forgiveness, happiness and its shadow complement . . . the underside of joy.

Download and start listening now!


Quotes & Awards

  • Seré Prince Halverson’s emotionally rich debut novel . . . weaves complex subplots with deceptive ease. . . . The strength of this novel is in its empathy for all its characters—and for two women who want what’s best for the children they both love with equal claim on motherhood. Sarah Weinman, Publishers Marketplace
  • Halverson’s gloriously down-to-earth novel is so pitch perfect that as readers reluctantly reach the last page, wanting more, they will have to take it on faith that this really is her first fiction. Library Journal (starred review)
  • The writing in The Underside of Joy is as purely beautiful as the story is emotionally complex. When Ella Beene is wrenched from a state of unexamined happiness into confusion and grief, she finds that her only hope of emerging whole is to face searing and long-buried truths. Ella embarks on a difficult journey, both morally and materially, one that requires her to risk losing everything she most loves. I cheered (sometimes through tears) her every step. Marisa de los Santos — Marisa de los Santos
  • Searingly smart and exquisitely written, Halverson's knockout debut limns family, marriage and a custody battle in a way that gets under your skin and leaves you changed. To say I loved this book would be an understatement. Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
  • The Underside of Joy covers the transforming experiences of most of our lives — marriage, parenthood and death — with maturity, understanding and grace. Anyone who has known love, loss, regret and forgiveness can identify with Ella and her transformation, and with subplots about sibling rivalry, the local food movement and the persecution of Italian immigrants during World War II, the book offers a lot to think about. I suspect it will be a book club favorite. Associated Press
  • [An] exquisite debut… moving and hopeful. People Style Watch
  • Halverson’s debut novel marks her as a strong new voice in women’s fiction…this would make an excellent book-club choice. Booklist
  • Halverson paints a lovely picture of smalltown life and intimate family drama…Nuanced characters and lack of cliché make for a winning debut. Publishers Weekly
  • Halverson avoids sentimentality, aiming for higher ground in this lucid and graceful examination of the dangers and blessings of familial bonds. Kirkus Reviews
  • Seré Prince Halverson's debut novel is a faultless exploration of sadness and shame, anger and forgiveness; a story well told about people we would like to know. Shelf Awareness

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lalita | 2/20/2014

    " This book is very much in the style of Maria del los Santos, and in fact her praise for the book appears on the back cover. A beautiful story, very nicely written. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Arlene | 2/15/2014

    " I absolutely loved it!! It touched on so many elements, motherhood in all its variations, small town living with its community, family and its secrets and so much more... I hope Sere Prince Halvorsen gives us more stories as her descriptions are luscious.. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Barb | 2/13/2014

    " A debut novel that captured my interest immediately. The stepmother of two young children struggles to rebuild their family life after the children's father dies in a freak accident. When the biological mother shows up, the tension builds. Great descriptions of place (northern CA) and a cast of characters you'll remember long after finishing the book. Well-crafted story - read it! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laurie Guest | 2/3/2014

    " This was a very emotional read. It has a good ending--I finished it and was crying! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Janet | 2/2/2014

    " A little predictable but a great story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bee | 1/24/2014

    " Read it in one sitting. Love, joy, grief, grace and complications of blended families. Great story, made me weep and nod my head in empathy. Children are vulnerable, take care... "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anita Smith | 1/17/2014

    " This started out with so much promise... and then quickly evolved into a Lifetime/Hallmark movie. Cheesy, far-fetched, underdeveloped characters. I was disappointed in this book. It wrapped everything up way too neatly. Curious to hear what others thought. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica B | 12/26/2013

    " 3 1/2 stars - bitter-sweet story that is easy to read ... It's gotten SO much press that I was compelled to read it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Frances Caballo | 12/11/2013

    " I liked how the book began but as it progressed, the events became completely predictable. I think it was a decent first book. She's obviously a good writer and I hope her next books will be better. (I hate writing reviews like this!) "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 12/7/2013

    " You can read my review here. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Pam Engman | 11/8/2013

    " This was such a great book. I loved the characters and the way the author created depth. Just read this after a tragic drowning of my dear friend's son in law so I experienced extra tears. Such a great read! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nancy | 10/18/2013

    " An interesting and though-provoking story involving family, step-parenting, courage, honesty, and strength. Well worth the read!!! I cannot wait for Halverson's next novel! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lisa | 8/19/2013

    " I liked this book. The second half was much better and quicker than the first half! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Doris | 8/2/2013

    " Sweet, sad, involving story of step-motherhood, death of husband and father of two young children whose biological mother chooses to reclaim following the funeral. Ella Beene perseveres. This is a wonderful rising-out-of-the-ashes of grief and making-lemonade-out-of-lemons story. Enjoy! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kim Erskine | 7/31/2013

    " I really liked this book. While it was a quick read (two days) it feels like it will remain with me for a long time. I felt drawn into the the place and the story every time I picked it up. Sere's descriptive ability was so good, I felt like I too could draw a map of Elbow, CA. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lori | 6/10/2013

    " really liked it alot, her first novel, really hope it's not her last. loved all the main characters and the story had so many layers to it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heather Womersley | 5/24/2013

    " Very good story, and I wanted to step into the little town of Elbow, CA. The birth-mother/step-mother custody battle was heart-wrenching. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christina | 4/28/2013

    " I like the characters and dynamics of this story. (Reminder before recommending: a few sexual sentences, thankfully not paragraphs) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jill | 4/1/2013

    " Reminds me of the TV show "Brothers and Sisters" only not nearly so annoying. I'm a sucker for the N. Cal setting and tale of heartbreak and redemption. May be a little too tidily wrapped up for some readers, but I was in the mood for that kind of thing so it was all right by me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Bookish | 3/28/2013

    " New favorite! Emotional? Yes! But every emotion possible is hit upon. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Laura | 11/14/2012

    " Perfect for fans of Lifetime movies. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy | 6/24/2012

    " Great messages about love, loss, hanging in, and compromise. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gena Divine | 5/29/2012

    " Good setting, good characters, good story. "

Write a Review
What is FlexPass?
  • Your first audiobook is just $5.95
  • Over 90% are at or below $12.95
  • "LOVE IT" guarantee
  • No time limits or expirations
About the Author

Seré Prince Halverson is the author of The Underside of Joy and All the Winters After, novels that explore grief, forgiveness, nature, and the intimate layers of family. She worked as a copywriter and creative director for twenty years while she wrote fiction and raised kids. Seré and her husband have four grown children, and live in Northern California in a house in the woods. You can visit her at www.SerePrinceHalverson.com.

About the Narrator

Geneva Carr is a stage, television, and film actress living in Manhattan. She has toured North America in Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, performed on stage with Mary Tyler Moore in Neil Simon’s Rose’s Dilemma, and played a laugh track in Christopher Durang’s Obie Award–winning play, Betty’s Summer Vacation. Her film and television credits include Sex and the City, Hope & Faith, Spin City, Third Watch, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Chappelle’s Show, and The Three Little Wolfs.