Pieces of Happiness by Ann Ostby


It’s not just her feet that are experiencing a new spring in Fiji. Her thoughts, her shoulders, her smile- Ingrid can feel everything becoming looser and smoother.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. Sina, Maya, Ingrid, and Lisbeth take up the challenge to live with Kat on her cocoa farm in Fiji! Make chocolate in paradise, feel young and free again, shuck the old weight of their frigid lives and live out what time remains together, once again a sisterhood. Kat was always the one they all wanted to be, felt ‘inadequate’ around, were jealous and proud of. In their sixties, it certainly isn’t golden for all the women. Sina is weighted down by her middle aged son Armand whose middle name could be broke, who bleeds her of money and life. She has up and left it all, for once it is she who will be traveling, not her son! Maya is struggling with dementia, but wouldn’t this be just the thing, to get her engaged mind and body, living again and in such a beautiful place? Maya was my favorite character, with the relationship she forms with a sweet little girl named Maraia, whose name means “star of the sea”.  The author takes the fragility of dementia and gives voice to it’s sufferers through Maya. “The scary thing isn’t not remembering. It’s when she remembers that she hasn’t remembered that the dizziness turns into terrified nausea.”  Ingrid has been indoors too much, her entire life, all the years, swallowed up by work. Ingrid, solid, and wise. The one who saw, all those years ago, the moment Kat’s leaving ruptured their sisterhood, each flying off in separate directions. She is itching now, the inner Ingrid, to free herself, to grab some adventure and life while the grabbing is good no matter that her brother thinks she’s too old.  There will be no whiling away the years for her, sitting around waiting for her pension. Lisbeth’s place in life with Harald and the children had been well established, to  be a homemaker. Great when the children were young, but once the nest was empty Harald wouldn’t allow her to help in the store, found it laughable. After all, what did she know of running a business? No, she was best at home, or volunteering, the places her ideas went to die. She won’t be held back now, passionate ideas for chocolate is growing in her. Only her older daughter takes her seriously. She must go, will Harald bother to come bring her back? For Kat, the head of the circle, offering paradise, this was a dream both she and her beloved Niklas birthed together after years spent wandering, traveling, helping others. He loved her, this cocoa farm is proof of that. She is lost without her true mate, but this is the time after Niklas. She doesn’t want it to be just an experiment with her friends. She wants them to be family in their final years.

Ateca is such a wonderful character in this novel, watching and praying over the women. She was saved by Kat and Niklas, given a job when she lost her husband long ago. She knows it is time to look after Kat. She sees things, far more clearly than the women. She knows the women need each other desperately. “Sisters aren’t necessarily born of the same mother.”  Ateca is the wisdom throughout the novel, the touch of magic.  She has had her own struggles, a native to the land. The island is a gorgeous setting, from working the cocoa to feasting on strange sea creatures, it is more than just a story about sisterhood.

Often novels about women in their later years is stuffy, so of course young people scoff at them. This novel isn’t like that, it has so much heart and beauty. I ached for the women and their regrets, illnesses, as much as cheered on their successes. It was genuine, believable. I would’t say it is women’s fiction only for women of a certain age. I enjoyed this as much as I think my own mother would. What a lovely escape, a reality check in how we can be taken for granted and worse, deny our own selves happiness, but it’s never too late.

Publication Date: August 1, 2017

Doubleday Books



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