Prissy Fallwell smoked Players Plain, played crib for money and drank Wild Turkey when she was between men. Prissy had a lot of boyfriends when I was growing up. I had a lot of crushes – Jack Lord from Hawaii Five-O, Hawkeye Pierce, Jerome the Giraffe and Jesus. Well, GOD actually. It was an on again off again sort of affair. This is our story _ So begins Bean E. Fallwell’s life story in Mostly Happy.
Caught in the tight space between love and fear, Bean gallops through her early life picking up shiny bits of beauty along the way and tucking them into a red Samsonite suitcase. This suitcase, a dominant metaphor in the novel, becomes Bean’s touchstone that keeps her from spiralling into the dark worlds of her beautiful, screwed up mother and all the stray men she brings home; her sad, exhausted father; and her magnetic stepfather as he transforms from family saviour into drunken dragon. Without remorse or bitterness Bean moves forward, seeking her friendships where she can, casting spells to protect her younger sister, and seeking solace from whatever small sanctuaries her transient life offers.
There are intense, cruel and terrifying moments in her family life that shred her innocence, but as Bean is battered and almost broken a few times by them, she also learns how to cope, recover and laugh. From engaging episodes as a religious-sponsored youth missionary in England and Europe, and the orchestrated pursuit of becoming an actress in Toronto, to the novel’s road’s end in Wyoming, Bean’s life is as relentlessly whimsical as it is sad. And as she migrates from schoolgirl to teen, to young woman, and her dreams unfold from grill cheese sandwiches to self-sufficiency, she evolves into one of fiction’s most memorable characters.