Book Review: Happy Place by Emily Henry

Quick Summary:

Happy Place by Emily Henry tells the story of Wyn and Harriet, former friends and fiances, who have broken up and now have to spend a week together on vacation with their friends. Harriet and Wyn’s friend group is in Maine for one last hurrah as the vacation home they’ve grown to love will no longer be available. 

This vacation home was Harriet’s happy place (hah), so its no surprise that she was ecstatic to reunite with her friend group for a week, and step away from dealing with her breakup with Wyn and from being a surgical student. All of that comes crashing down when she’s surprised with her ex-fiance when she arrives at the house. Her friends arranged for Wyn to join them, as he’s part of the friend group, for their last week in the house. The problem? No one knows Harriet and Wyn broke up.
Harriet is obviously not happy that Wyn’s on this trip. She was hoping to escape from him and thoughts about him for a week, while figuring out how to tell the rest of their friends they broke up. Harriet was already planning on this until two of her friends, Sabrina and Parth, announced that they were engaged and that they planned on getting married at the house at the end of the week. In an effort to not dampen the good news, they decide to pretend they’re still together – easier said than done.

Common Themes + Opinions:

As the story develops, it becomes clear that Harriet and Wyn both struggle with feelings of self worth. Wyn hasn’t felt deserving of anything and felt like a failure before he even accomplished anything. This ended up sending him into a deep depression he didn’t even know he had which was exacerbated when his dad died, pushing Harriet further away. He got used to hearing how his sisters would be great but not much commentary about him, so he ended up personalizing it. Like Wyn was prom king and he thought it was handed to him out of pity because of his good looks, not because people actually wanted him to win. 

Wyn felt that because it was implied that he’d just follow his father’s footsteps into the family business, that he couldn’t leave and make a name for himself, which is why he did and even then, he still felt unworthy of his own success. As a result of all of this, he felt that he was also undeserving of Harriet, and was scared to admit this to her.
For Harriet, it was her trying to repay her parents sacrifice in thinking that if she was good enough, that would make them happy, without realizing that she was making herself unhappy in life and love as she pushed Wyn away. Her parents were together because her mom had gotten pregnant with Harriet’s older sister Eloise. She says that they didn’t seem happy together, they just were. Since Eloise was rebellious, as a child, Harriet focused on being good; being well behaved, being a great student, being successful so that her parents can see that their sacrifice was worth something. 

This led to Harriet going to medical school to really prove this point to her parents, not realizing that she didn’t even want these things for herself and didn’t know what actually made her happy. All her life, her choices were for others and in losing Wyn and going on this last hurrah of a friend trip, she was confronted with finally making a decision that would satisfy her and no one else.

Final Thoughts + Ratings:

I spent most of the book hoping Harriet and Wyn would find their way back to each other. Harriet’s struggles resonated with me because it’s hard enough to have to deal with the pressure of wanting to feel good enough to earn your parents seal of approval, it’s even worse when you lose yourself in getting there or don’t even know who you are or hate what you’ve become as a result of it. The gist of the story, in my opinion, is that it’s okay to start over and that you’re not responsible for anyone’s happiness (or feelings for that matter) other than your own. Harriet and Wyn both eventually get to this point, where their happy place isn’t necessarily their friend’s vacation home anymore.
I gave Happy Place five stars because aside from loving Emily Henry’s books, it pushed me to think about my own happiness and where I am in life. Not to get all thoughtful from a romance novel but here I am!
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