Small Joys

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An unexpected friendship saves a young man's life in this moving, utterly charming debut about chosen family, the winding road to happiness, and the grace of second chances.

Could I one day inspire happiness in others, the same way he seemed to do in me?

It's 2005 and Harley has dropped out of college to move home, back to rural England, where he works a dead-end job at a movie theater. Estranged from his father and finding every attempt at happiness futile, Harley is on the verge of making a devastating final decision. Fortunately for him, things don't go according to plan, and his attempt on his own life is interrupted by his new roommate, Muddy.

Muddy is everything Harley is not: ostensibly heterosexual, freewheeling, confident in his masculinity. Despite their differences, a deep friendship blossoms between them when Muddy takes Harley under his wing and shows him everything that, in his eyes, makes life worth living: bird-watching, karaoke, rugby, and the band Oasis.

But this newfound friendship is complicated. It has enormous repercussions for the pair's romantically entangled friend group--for Chelsea, an overbearing striver whose generosity they begrudgingly rely on; for Finlay, her raffish and uncouth boyfriend; and for Noria, who despite her simmering confidence is smarting from a series of unreturned affections. And then there's the violent affair with an older man that Harley finds himself slipping back into . . .

As secrets and jealousies endanger all that Harley has come to depend on, he finds himself faltering once again, even though he finally has something--and someone--to live for. Soul-stirring and witty, full of hope and peopled with characters who feel like close friends, Small Joys explores a young man's turbulent journey toward happiness and announces the arrival of an exciting voice in fiction.

About the Author

Elvin James Mensah was born and raised in South East London. He graduated from Bournemouth University, where he began writing his first novel, Small Joys.

"Kind, careful, beautiful, and profound . . . Elvin James Mensah has an uncanny ability to give voice to the most delicate nuances of the human experience. His characters will stay in your heart forever."--Allison Larkin, author of The People We Keep

"A largehearted look at the importance of found family, Mensah's first novel focuses on the lifesaving friendship between a cast-off son. . . and the easygoing new roommate whose affection becomes a balm. Small Joys dwells in the sometimes-fleeting moments of pleasure and happiness that stave off the iniquities of the world."--Electric Literature

"Breathtaking and heartrending, by turns hilarious and devastating and surprising and wild . . . Elvin James Mensah's prose makes the intangible deft and tremendous--from the balm of friendship to the beauty of queerness to the all-encompassing elixir of community. Tender, thrilling, and honest, Small Joys is a beam of light."--Bryan Washington, author of Memorial

"I adored Small Joys--a sweet, moving, funny, strikingly open story. I don't know if I've ever rooted so much for a protagonist as I did for Harley. . . . What a gorgeous novel."--Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne

"Small Joys is a wonderful book full of music, life, and a great deal of heart. . . . An extremely BIG joy!"--Matson Taylor, author of The Miseducation of Evie Epworth

"This heartwarming, witty, and moving debut is one of the most charming books you'll read this year. Exploring love, friendship, grief, and the bittersweet joy of being young, Small Joys is utterly beautiful."--Louise O'Neill, author of Idol

"A beautiful, moving story of love, male intimacy, chosen family, and finding self-worth."--Paul Mendez, author of Rainbow Milk

"Mensah debuts with a poignant chronicle of the intense friendship between two men. . . . This author is off to an auspicious start."--Publishers Weekly

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pub date: April 11, 2023
320 pages
Format: Hardcover