She’s out to prove that there’s no such thing as choosing happiness.
Isadora Bentley follows the rules. Isadora Bentley likes things just so. Isadora Bentley believes that happiness is something that flat-out doesn’t exist in her life—and never will.
As a university researcher, Isadora keeps to herself as much as possible. She avoids the students she’s supposed to befriend and mentor. She stays away from her neighbors and lives her own quiet, organized life in her own quiet, organized apartment. And she will never get involved in a romantic relationship again—especially with another academic. It will be just Isadora and her research. Forever.
But on her thirtieth birthday, Isadora does something completely out of character. The young woman who never does anything “on a whim” makes an impulse purchase of a magazine featuring a silly article detailing “Thirty-One Ways to Be Happy”—which includes everything from smiling at strangers to exercising for endorphins to giving in to your chocolate cravings. Isadora decides to create her own secret research project—proving the writer of the ridiculous piece wrong.
As Isadora gets deeper into her research—and meets a handsome professor along the way—she’s stunned to discover that maybe, just maybe, she’s proving herself wrong. Perhaps there’s actually something to this happiness concept, and possibly there’s something to be said for loosening up and letting life take you somewhere . . . happy.
I enjoyed reading The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley, set in Chicago, Illinois. The story is in first person viewpoint and opens on Isadora’s 30th birthday. Isadora is celebrating her birthday alone in her apartment with a trolley load of junk food from the grocery store. She’s a university researcher who loves data and struggles with crippling social anxiety.
Isadora is socially awkward and has poor self-esteem. She’s an only child who grew up with an absent father and narcissistic mother, and has carried a truckload of emotional baggage from her childhood and high school years into adulthood. She won’t do therapy, believes she can handle everything on her own, and doesn’t need people in her life.
Isadora finds a magazine article that lists 31 ways to be happy, and she sets out to scientifically disprove the theory. Along the way she’s challenged to reconsider her preconceived ideas about people. Her boss makes her work with Cal, a psychologist who’s researching the impact of social media on relationships. Cal is adorable, and patient with Isadora as she starts addressing her emotional baggage that won’t stay buried.
I loved the cast of supporting characters who valued Isadora and wanted to be her friend. I recommend The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley to contemporary fiction readers who like single point-of-view romances with women’s fiction themes and a very light faith element in the story.
Many thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for the advanced reader copy.