Things that Cause Inappropriate Happiness

Fiction - Anthology
200 Pages
Reviewed on 05/15/2024
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Justine Reyes for Readers' Favorite

Short fiction is not hard to come by, but impactful short fiction is. Danila Botha's Things That Cause Inappropriate Happiness is a collection of slice-of-life stories around themes of diversity, wonder, and femininity. My favorite story is Don't Look Back. It follows a young artist who reminiscences about her Great-Aunt Mara. Like the narrator, Mara is also an artist. However, Aunt Mara is not seen in the best light by her family due to her financial failings and her overall eccentricity. Despite this, the narrator admires Mara, who teaches the narrator to acknowledge the value of her artwork and not to feel guilty about her choices in life. I found this story surprisingly relatable and comforting. Overall, the other stories follow much of the same structure. They're inclusive, emotional, and relatable. Another story I also enjoyed was Sometimes I Like to Shoot Kids. Don't let the title fool you! This story is darkly humorous and tasteful; partly anecdotal, partly romantic, and partly a punchline. The story follows Tamar, a local English Language teacher passionate about photography. Tamar talks about her day-to-day life, the people she encounters, and especially the guys she fancies. One in particular is called Bar. This story had me giggling the further I got into it. I wish it were a full-length novel.

It's been a while since I have read a book, short story or not, that has given me such pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed the stories even though I could not relate to all of them. That is due to Danila Botha's brilliance as a writer. Botha transported me to a world where the mundanity of everyday life, relationships, and circumstances feels romantic. The collection highlights the Jewish heritage, which might turn some people off. But these are the types of stories we need. Botha provides readers with lives they've already known while showing others' lives they might not live but can still relate to. The writing is reflective and witty, and the stories are quick and easy to read but also deeply intellectual. The writing is remarkable, with a profound quality that makes one wonder. Somehow, in 32 short stories, the author made me feel and realize that everyone is living their own lives that are just as real as mine (despite the stories being fictional). Compared to the bigger picture, our lives are positively small yet beautiful. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed Things That Cause Inappropriate Happiness, and I hope others who read it will find it as lovely as I did.