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Shelf Life of Happiness

In these bittersweet, compelling stories, Virginia Pye’s characters long for that most elusive of states: happiness. A young skateboarder reaches across an awesome gap to reconnect with his disapproving father; an elderly painter executes one final, violent gesture to memorialize his work; a newly married writer battles the urge to implode his happy marriage; and a confused young man falls for his best friend’s bride and finally learns to love. In each story, Pye’s characters aim to be better people as they strive for happiness—and some even reap the sweet reward of achieving it.

2019 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Short Story Fiction

2019 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Short Story Fiction


Praise for Shelf Life of Happiness

Shelf Life of Happiness is remarkable. Virginia Pye writes with a sharp eye and a compassionate heart. Sly, insightful, and vivid, these are some of the best stories I have read in years. These tales amaze with their yearning, with their wisdom, and with their love.”

Jennifer Finney Boylan

“The characters in Virginia Pye’s Shelf Life of Happiness experience their lives as a tangle they urgently need to understand before it’s too late. They’re experts on how to keep their hearts in reserve....yet all they want is to access the appreciative tenderness that’s waiting for them within their best selves. These are deft and moving stories.”

Jim Shepard

“...a deeply moving meditation on the complexity and potential generosity of love.”

Kirkus Reviews

“The damage, cost, and redemptive force of love appears again and again in this remarkable collection. But it’d be a mistake to think Pye is simply breaking our hearts. Underneath, she’s fracking the existential bedrock of our lives....Shelf Life of Happiness is an act of communion. Pye’s characters fall and break the way we fall and break, characters so real we’re caught in the desperate leaps their hearts take to survive. Wise, compassionate, beautiful and unsettling, these stories uncover the tough, elusive hope that holds us together.”

Charles Duffie
Heavy Feather Review

“Sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, always moving, Shelf Life of Happiness rewards the discerning reader who seeks not only entertainment but also wisdom.”

Richmond Times Dispatch

Shelf Life of Happiness is a collection of impressive range and deep emotional intelligence. These are stories...that are remembered later with such clarity and feeling that they seem like one’s own memories.”

Kelly Luce

“These are terrific stories. The deep surprises their characters keep offering each other show a rare understanding of human nature. From a dying man’s marriage to a small town’s mysterious murders, the emergencies of ordinary life illuminate this book. A joy to read.”

Joan Silber


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