Title: Happiness for Beginners
Author: Zahra Owens
Narrator:: Michael Stellman
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 1 Hour, 51 Minutes
At a Glance: The storyline was too basic, with very few details about the main characters’ lives
Blurb: Jesse harbored a crush on his TV series costar, Kaye, for more than eight years, but when the show was canceled and he realized those years of playing gay hadn’t convinced Kaye to leave the straight and narrow, Jesse turned his back on acting for good. Ten years later, Kaye is back in Jesse’s life, on Christmas Eve—and the eve of his third divorce. Jesse’s not sure his heart can take another beating, but Kaye has a few tricks up his sleeve—and a few truths from his own heart—that might just convince Jesse that the gifts of love and happiness are not just for Christmas.
Review: This was a hard audio for me to review. I wanted to really like Happiness for Beginners, as Zahra Owens is one of my favorite authors, but sadly, I didn’t enjoy it at all. Wow! I have a harsh opinion, but why didn’t I like it? The storyline was too basic, with very few details about the main characters’ lives during the time they worked together, or the ten years since they have seen each other. Kaye is a stereotypical “star” being told what to do to make his image more marketable, and even at the end of the story he checks with his agent. Billed as a Christmas Story, to the point of being bundled in a Christmas anthology , Christmas played no role in the plot or storyline—one afternoon spent with a sister, and it wasn’t even on Christmas.
Kaye shows up at his former co-star Jesse’s travel agency two days before Christmas. They have not seen each other for over 10 years, after having worked together for eight years performing as life partners on a late night television series. With Kaye coming back into his life, Jesse realizes that he is still very much in love with Kaye but also harbors a lot of hurt feelings, feeling that Kaye had been avoiding him for all those years.
Then it’s Kaye turn to explain to Jesse. After spending an evening with Jesse’s sister and her kids, they return to Jesse’s apartment. Kaye, it seems, has lots of issues. Over the course of three days, he lets Jesse in on a few of them. The rest of the story is listening to Kaye talk about his sexual hang-ups, and Jesse helping him overcome them. I did like the ending; I always enjoy a happily ever after.
In every story I have read, or listened to, there is always a nugget of goodness, and Happiness for Beginners is no exception. “Maybe he’s got a picture stashed away somewhere that ages so he can stay young”. I want one of those pictures, please. “‘This is crazy, J.’ ‘Lust always is, Kaye. And so is sex. It’s crazy and messy and explosive’” — my two favorite parts of the story. What I didn’t like about this story was the story development. Kaye shows up at Jesse’s, they make tea, Kaye confesses to Jesse all of his sexual hang-ups, Jesse “fixes” him, and they have lots of steamy sex . I can almost see the bullet points of the outline.
As far as the narration of this audio, the lack of inflection or emotional color made it hard to stay with the story. If the audio would have been any longer, I wouldn’t have been able to finish it. I am glad I listened to the end, though. As I said earlier, I like a happy ending.
You can buy Happiness for Beginners here: