A novel of five lifelong friends who, in their sixties, decide to live together on a cocoa farm in Fiji, where they not only start a chocolate business but strengthen their friendships and rediscover themselves.
"I've planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset. Why don't you join me? Leave behind everything that didn't work out!"
When Sina, Maya, Ingrid, and Lisbeth each receive a letter in the mail posing the same question, the answer is obvious. Their old high school friend Kat—Kat the adventurer, Kat who spread her wings and took off as soon as they graduated—has extended the invitation of a lifetime: Come live with me on my cocoa farm in Fiji. Come spend the days eating chocolate and gabbing like teenagers once again, free from men, worries, and cold. Come grow old in paradise, together, as sisters. Who could say no?
Now in their sixties, the friends have all but resigned themselves to the cards they've been dealt. There's Sina, a single mom with financial woes; gentle Maya who feels the world slipping away from her; Ingrid, the perennial loner; Lisbeth, a woman with a seemingly picture-perfect life; and then Kat, who is recently widowed. As they adjust to their new lives together, the friends are watched over by Ateca, Kat's longtime housekeeper, who oftentimes knows the women better than they know themselves and recognizes them for what they are: like "a necklace made of shells: from the same beach but all of them different." Surrounded by an azure-blue ocean, cocoa trees, and a local culture that is fascinatingly, joyfully alien, the friends find a new purpose in starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness.
A story of love, hope, and chocolate, PIECES OF HAPPINESS will reaffirm your faith in friendship, second chances, and the importance of indulging one's sweet tooth.
My Review of Pieces of Happiness
Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby reminds us friendships can endure, age is just a number and dreams are often sweeter when shared.
After traveling the world in primarily underdeveloped countries to assist with a variety of social justice causes, Katrina (Kat) and her husband Niklas decide to buy a cocoa plantation in Fiji and settle down for the remainder of their years. The native island delights them with its lush vegetation, colorful flowers, beautiful waters and its people and native customs. But Kat’s dreams are short lived at the sudden and unexpected death of Niklas. Unwilling to leave the island she has come to love, Kat reaches out to four of her high school friends and challenges them to visit and perhaps stay if the island calls them. A return ticket is promised if the island and all it has to offer does not prove to be what Kat has claimed it to be.
Now in their sixties all of the women are intrigued by Kat’s invitation. Ingrid a bookkeeper and Kat’s best friend is single with a pension from the County Bus Service. A disciplined but unassuming life has led Ingrid to be more than interested in traveling to Fiji. Lisbeth, the beauty of the group, is now stuck in a loveless marriage. Fear of aging and losing her looks Lisbeth is eager to step away from her life and her husband for a while. Distanced from her children Lisbeth feels it’s now or never. Sina, the cynical one of the group is anxious to leave her unstable and dreary life to start somewhere fresh. Her fifty year old son has drained her of her finances and her emotions with his get rich quick schemes. Knowing she has nothing left to give him, she is the first to board a plane headed for Fiji. Maya, the most complicated of the group is now a widow with early onset Alzheimer’s. Once a schoolteacher Maya’s days are now a mixture of confusion and reality. Determined to take on the challenge, Kat reassures her daughter Evy that her group of friends will handle whatever may come. With that in mind Maya also joins the group.
As the days become weeks and weeks months the love of the island, its people and the culture becomes ingrained in each of the women in different ways. Anxious for adventure and a new start in life the cocoa plantation becomes an invitation for a new business. Kat’s candy or as they describe it pieces of happiness begins to grow, develop and take on a life of its own. The friends all work together, each contributing manual labor or their own level of experience or expertise. But as the business grows the friends discover that Fijian life has altered and changed them in different ways. They are not the same women they were in high school or the same women that arrived on the island. Each carry their own sorrow and secrets that have yet to be revealed. As time goes by and things hidden are disclosed, the women’s friendships will be tested and either sealed or broken.
I liked Pieces of Happiness. It transported me to an island where I could envision beautiful flowers and feel a warm breeze coming off the ocean. It made me reminisce about old high school friends and secrets giggled at sleepovers. It also made me realize I was glad for the wonderful friends I have in my life as an adult. I especially appreciate Anne Ostby view from each of the women. Each chapter was told from a perspective of each of them as to the life they left behind, their sorrows and worries and how this new life was changing them. Every few chapters the author would cleverly give a perspective of the friends through the eyes of Kat’s housekeeper Ateca. It was always done through Ateca’s daily prayers for her son and each woman to Jesus. Beautiful and poignant Ateca was always able to see what the women needed even when they didn’t know themselves.
Pieces of Happiness will stay with you long after you read the last page. Kat, Ingrid, Sina, Maya and Lisbeth lives and loves, successes and sorrows will be planted in your memory as you close the book. Pieces of Happiness will make you yearn for warm climates, soft breezes and silky pieces of chocolate. It may encourage you to call a friend to catch up and perhaps even share a secret or two.
I want to thank Doubleday via Netgalley for an advanced reader copy of Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby for a fair and honest review.
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