Double Happiness

A seductive, deeply human, and sophisticated story collection about the  universal need to be loved and the complicated imperfections that jeopardize the ties that bind us.  

The stories in Double Happiness are extraordinary portrayals of the ordinariness of life. By pinpointing those moments of discord when personal needs and morality clash with circumstances beyond our control, Hughes challenges our concepts of responsibility, trust, resilience, and betrayal. In “Pelican Song,” a  thirty-year-old modern dancer who moonlights as a movie-ticket taker visits her  parents’ picturesque home only to discover that her stepfather has begun to abuse  her too-accommodating mother; “Horse” follows maladjusted honeymooners in Atlantic City whose romantic weekend is saved from emotional catastrophe by a bored horse that refuses to dive from its pedestal into the ocean; and in “Rome,” a mini-holiday in New York City turns from shopping sprees and tea at the Plaza to a young girl’s sharp discovery of her father’s secret life.  

With an elegant blend of humor and pathos, Hughes captures the turning  points in relationships that make us wonder how well we really know the people we love, and ourselves. Full of improbably paired characters whose differences  serve to unearth the vulnerabilities, idiosyncrasies, and compromises that unite and divide us, Double Happiness is a revealing meditation on the fragility of contentment and the lengths we must go to in order to sustain it.


Winner of a 2010 Pushcart Prize
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2010

“These stories are devastating, poignant, desperate, and true.”
— Mary Gaitskill
“Hughes is a quietly gorgeous writer, lavishing startling metaphors on her halflost souls. . . . [The] tone is often hushed, lending the collection a discreet, old-fashioned quality reminiscent of a restrained writer like Mavis Gallant. . . . Her stories begin like a train already in motion; the reader must trot to get a handhold and swing up. The elegant phrasing, the general hush, the condensation—all this contributes to a satisfying sense of intimacy . . . in this delicate, tender [collection].”
— Stacey D’Erasmo, The New York Times Book Review
“The stories in this excellent collection meander with the sureness of streams discovering their paths. Hughes keeps her prose close to her characters’ thoughts, and doles out the most crucial information on the sly. . . . [Her] careful but unobtrusive organization gives even the saddest revelations—and most revelations here are sad—an air of the miraculous.”
The New Yorker