Pages: 336
Imprint: Oneworld


How to Build a Family out of Love and Spare Parts

Heather Harpham

A page-turning, shirt-grabbing true story that follows a one-of-a-kind family required to make nearly unimaginable choices
9781786071378 (7 Sep 2017)
RRP £14.99
9781786073433 (7 Jun 2018)
RRP £9.99

The Book

Reese Witherspoon's Book Club Pick 2018

An Amazon Best Memoir of the Month

One of Elle Magazine's Best Books of 2017

Goodreads Best of the Month

Daily Beast, "Books I Can't Live Without”

Good Housekeeping, Best New Books for Summer

Book Riot, 100 Must Read Books about Happiness

A page-turning, shirt-grabbing true story that follows a one-of-a-kind family required to make nearly unimaginable choices

Happiness starts out as a charming courtship between hopelessly attracted opposites: Heather, an out-going, theatre-performing California girl, and Brian, an intellectual New Yorker with an unwavering writing routine. But when Heather falls pregnant, their magical interlude abruptly ends—Brian loves her, only he doesn't want kids. So Heather decides to have their baby alone.

Mere hours after Gracie's arrival, Heather's bliss is interrupted when a nurse wakes her, 'Get dressed, your baby is in trouble.' This is not how Heather had imagined motherhood. As concerns for her health grow, Brian and Heather begin a cautious return to each other. Happiness transforms heartbreak and parental fears into a lyrical meditation on love and happiness, in all their crooked configurations.

Additional Information

Pages 336
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Heather Harpham has written and performed six solo plays, including a theatrical version of this material. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and SUNY Purchase and has been a visiting artist at colleges and universities across the United States. Originally from Northern California, Heather lives along the Hudson River with her family. www.heatherharpham.com


'The book is equal parts heart-wrenching and joyful, and you won't be able to stop turning these pages!'

- Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Pick of the month

'Harpham...brings us along on her raw, real journey of healing — not just of her child but also of her marriage.'

- Oprah.com 5 Memoirs That Will Blow Your Mind

'Harpham has a keen eye and a quirky turn of phrase.'

- Sunday Herald

'Heather Harpham has managed to weave a deftly-told memoir on both a cruel twist of genetic fate, and the complexities of romantic love, with wit and grace.'

- Huffington Post

'An amazing story of love (almost) lost, then found.'

- People Magazine

'A heartfelt exploration of mortality and life, this memoir also explores the complex pulls and pushes of human relationships, and the deep debt we owe to family, friends, and modern medicine. At heart, it is a sobering mediation on the lasting impermanence of...happiness.'


'Utterly gorgeous...heartbreaking...staggering... If you're looking for a book to love, I recommend it... Happiness is told in riveting, plot-twisting fashion... But I'll say that it's also told with care and courage and humor, and it will deepen your understanding of not just life with a sick child, but life.'

- Chicago Tribune

'Absorbing... A beautifully-written, insightful tale.'

- Good Housekeeping

'Heather Harpham's moving memoir, Happiness is a page-turner.'

- Redbook

'Happiness touches on every woman's worst nightmares. An unplanned pregnancy. A reluctant partner. A baby with a life-threatening condition and an agonising moral dilemma. Could a second child save its older sibling? A beautifully written story of how a family is made and lives and loves together through the worst and best of times.'

- Dame Jenni Murray, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour

'An at times achingly painful, ultimately feel-good book for those who cringe at mawkish sentimentality.'

- Elle

'Harpham immediately grabs for the heart, juxtaposing the roller-coaster reality of caring for a critically ill newborn alongside her exhilarating, romantic courtship with Brian.'

- Shelf Awareness

'Although a personal story, Harpham's memoir provides a larger, universal picture of unconditional love toward a child and the push-pull of an adult relationship and all its inherent highs and lows.'

- Kirkus

'An extraordinary and bewitching book, Happiness has staked a claim among the most beautiful and moving portraits of parenthood and partnership.'

- Susan Cheever, bestselling author of Home Before Dark

'With intelligence and lyricism and compassion, Harpham gives us her story of the rocky road that sometimes leads right where you want it to.'

- Ann Hood, bestselling author of The Knitting Circle and Comfort: A Journey Through Grief

'Told with abundant charm and insight, this book is a beautifully drawn portrait of one family—its comforts, disappointments and, on the very best days, moments of grace.'

- Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, bestselling author of The Nest