Named a Notable Collection by The Story Prize
Semifinalist for the VCU Cabell Award
Finalist for the McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize
Named a Best Brooklyn Book of the Decade So Far by The L Magazine
And Yet They Were Happy (Leapfrog Press, 2011) chronicles the adventures large and small of a young couple setting out to build a life in an unstable world. It’s a world haunted by monsters, a world plagued by natural disasters, a world on the verge of collapse–but also a place of transformation, wonder, and delight, peopled by the likes of Noah, Eve, Bob Dylan, the Virgin Mary, Jack Kerouac, Anne Frank, and a cast of fairytale creatures. Hovering between reality and fantasy, autobiography and mythology, whimsy and darkness, And Yet They Were Happy is a journey through a universe at once peculiar and familiar. Pieces from the book have been anthologized, incorporated into literacy curriculums, and featured in PEN America and Sonora Review, among others.
A deeply interesting mind is at work in these wry, lyrical stories. Helen Phillips exploits the duality of our nature to create a timeless and most engaging collection.
Haunted and lyrical and edible all at once: these stories feel as natural and strange as if they were found inscribed on the inside of a nutshell.
In Helen Phillips’ brilliant miniatures, delighted readers will learn of the later, suburban life of Adam and Eve, visit a mouse carnival, and make the acquaintance of men who kill unicorns and sisters who yearn to live in a Maxfield Parrish painting. Like the fables of Italo Calvino, Steven Millhauser or W.S. Merwin, And Yet They Were Happy beautifully blends the short story and the prose poem, its pages chockablock with mermaids, subways, canals, floods, cucumbers, magicians, and encounters with Bob Dylan. The book is itself a gallery of marvels. Phillips guides us through the “Hall of Nostalgia For Things We Have Never Seen” and then follows up with tours of both “the factory where the virgins are made” and the “Anne Frank School for Expectant Mothers.” A depressed Noah admits that he “didn’t get them all,” a wife must guess which of two identical-seeming men is her husband, and a regime orders its citizens to grow raspberries on windowsills. Not least, even though one fairytale princess gradually forgets “how to write perfect script,” Helen Phillips never does: Her quietly elegant sentences are always as clear as spring water, as haunting as our own childhood memories.