What is more fleeting, more elusive than happiness? First-time novelist Anne Giardini delivers a powerful story that answers that question as clearly as anyone ever can. Maggie Selgrin is a typical early 30-something living in urban Vancouver. She has a perfectly respectable job, a few good friends and a decent apartment. Yet something is missing (aside from good dating prospects). She can't quite pinpoint it until her roommate, who designs magazine quizzes for a living, gives Maggie a quiz that indicates she has mere months left to live.

When Maggie realizes that it was her negative answer to the question Are you happy? that dragged down her life expectancy, she decides to take charge and find happiness. If only this were something waiting on the side of the road or conveniently packaged and available on a shelf at the local grocery, she'd be set. But Maggie, who prefers her life straightforward and uncomplicated, thank you very much, finds that happiness is a bit more elusive than she'd hoped.

Along the way, she becomes unwittingly embroiled in a nasty custody dispute between her flaky sister Lucy and the married Italian man who is the father of Lucy's newborn son. Hoping to protect her sister, Maggie takes the baby and goes on the run. She finds help along the way from several strong women, who both hide Maggie and the baby and help her rethink her own approach to life and to the nature of happiness.

Giardini, the daughter of beloved author Carol Shields, is a nimble storyteller who creates a character for the ages in dignified, wise-beyond-her-years Maggie Selgrin. Happiness, as Maggie learns, can best be found when you don't look too hard for it. Amy Scribner writes from Olympia, Washington.

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