Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain: Stories

Front Cover
W. W. Norton & Company, May 7, 2012 - Fiction - 224 pages
1 Review

A stunning debut from an award-winning poet.

Populating a small town in the Pacific Northwest, the characters in Lucia Perillo’s story collection all resist giving the world what it expects of them and are surprised when the world comes roaring back.

An addict trapped in a country house becomes obsessed with vacuum cleaners and the people who sell them door-to-door. An abandoned woman seeks consolation in tales of armed robbery told by one of her fellow suburban housewives. An accidental mother struggles to answer her daughter’s badgering about her paternity. And in three stories readers meet Louisa, a woman with Down syndrome who serves as an accomplice to her younger sister’s sexual exploits and her aging mother’s fantasies of revenge.

Together, Happiness Is a Chemical in the Brain is a sharp-edged, witty testament to the ambivalence of emotions, the way they pull in directions that often cancel one another out or twist their subjects into knots. In lyrical prose, Perillo draws on her training as a naturalist and a poet to map the terrain of the comic and the tragic, asking how we draw the boundaries between these two zones. What’s funny, what’s heartbreaking, and who gets to decide?

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mikitchenlady - LibraryThing

Read about three stories into this book and could not finish. They're all well written, and it's obvious that the author is a poet in the way she writes. I just found the characters and stories ... Read full review


User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A prize-winning poet (and MacArthur Fellow grant recipient) extends her literary mastery with a debut story collection.While these stories reflect the poet's plainspoken virtuosity and elliptical ... Read full review


Bad Boy Number Seventeen
Report from the Trenches
A Ghost Story Cavalcade of the Old West House of Grass
Anyone ElseButMe Happiness Is a Chemical inthe Brain

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2012)

Lucia Perillo (1958—2016) was the author of seven books of poetry, one of which, Inseminating the Elephant, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. She was also awarded a MacArthur genius grant.

Bibliographic information