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Discussion Guide

Happy Hour: A Novel

By Marlowe Granados

 

Happy Hour is a book that could easily be dismissed as a boozy, hedonistic memoir of a summer. Yet “being easily dismissed” is precisely what it’s about.

In an interview with the literary site Hazlitt, Marlowe Granados describes her impulse to write it: “I always wanted to write a book from the perspective of the type of girls who are always being observed but never seem to be making their own observations.” Elsewhere, she characterizes it differently:  “Gala and Isa,” the girls in question, “want to have some sort of legacy, to have had a say in how they are perceived.”

One of the lessons of Happy Hour is that beauty and luxury are not the same as excess and decadence. Gala and Isa are party girls, but they’re not rich. They weave a brocade of gem-like moments in 2013 New York where others would swipe a credit card and forget. 

 

Their lives are not the cynical exploitation of men nor the punishment of vain, “superficial,” or desperate women. They want to savor their existence: “to savor,” Isa says, “is to hold something...for more than a moment, to linger and draw out its details. Sometimes you are far too hungry to wait, and things get lost.” So you write them down to remember what your life consisted of.

 

Your book club question: what gives fun meaning for Isa and Gala? Don’t dismiss that question with an easy answer. Work through some of the others below.

 

Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

1. Near the end of the book, when Isa sits alone in the El Salvadoran restaurant, one of the owners asks her if her diary is “the final say.” Granados describes the book this way too: the “diary throughout the book...basically functions as the last word on [Isa’s] life.” What is Granados getting at with the finality in these phrases? Who is questioning Isa about the definitive account of her life? Why is it so important to get it right?
2. Diaspora is perhaps relevant to question 1 too; it refers to the spread of cultures beyond their original homeland. In the El Salvadoran restaurant, eating mariscada, Isa remembers the similar shrimp and rice dish her lola would make. Lola is the Tagalog word for grandmother. Tagalog is the language of the Philippines, which, like El Salvador, were colonized by Spain. Food, here, shows that influence: all three places have a common meal of braised rice and seafood, like paella in Spain. There are Latin American and Asian American diasporas in the United States, as well, inhabited by Isa’s parents. The idea of culture being fluid probably means something for Isa, an illegal immigrant with a mixed race background. She writes: “I’m not from anywhere.” But she also writes: “it’s funny how quickly a place can become yours. It never takes much, at least for me.” Can writing make a place yours? A body yours? Can it make who you are more fixed?
3. Is Isa and Gala’s lifestyle glamorous? Seems like an easy word to fasten to it. Isa does. An archaic definition of glamour is a magic curse that traps your desire. Do you want to live like them? Do they want you to?