Happiness, Like Water


Chinelo Okparanta

Published: 2 May 2013
Trade Paperback, Demy PB
135x216mm, 208 pages
ISBN: 9781847088307

Other Editions


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Published: 7 August 2014
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 208 pages
ISBN: 9781847088314

Ebook Available


In this debut collection, Chinelo Okparanta introduces us to families burdened equally by the past and the future. Here, we meet a childless couple with very different desires; a college professor comforting a troubled student; a mother seeking refuge from an abusive husband; an embittered spinster recalling the loss of a dear childhood friend; and a young woman waiting to join her lover abroad. High expectations - whether of success in Nigeria, or the dream of opportunity and accomplishment in America - consume them.

In language that is both raw and elegant, Okparanta's stories are often told from the point of a view of a child - a little girl, an adult daughter. Her closely observed characters populate stories that offer a clear-eyed view of an often traumatic family life, questioning the purpose of their time on earth, and whether there is a hereafter, or a different kind of afterlife altogether, outside of Port Harcourt.

Happiness, Like Water heralds the arrival of a fearless and sensitive literary voice.


‘The stories are quiet and understated and lucid and gather up their power almost without the reader realizing it, then they break your heart... Such subtle and open and strong writing’



‘Deeply affecting and beautifully evocative, Okparanta's novel is the perfect book to lose yourself in’

‘[She distils] experience into something crystalline, stark but lustrous’

‘Powerful and incredibly emotionally evocative... Okparanta is a voice to watch’ Emma Cueto

‘Okparanta writes with confidence and sensitivity, her language is subtle, yet also lucid and authoritative’

‘Her writing style is said to be "raw and elegant", a factor that shines through in the unflinching universal stories of ambition and longing that she tells’

‘Without bluster, Chinelo Okparanta writes stories that are brave and devastating’ Mohsin Hamid, author

‘Intricate, graceful prose propels Okparanta's profoundly moving and illuminating book. I devoured these stories and immediately wanted more. This is an arrival’ NoViolet Bulawayo, author

‘Haunting and startlingly original... Okparanta's characters are forced to make difficult, often impossible choices, and yet they manage to prevail through quiet and sometimes surprising acts of defiance. Okparanta's prose is elegant and precise, fueled by a strong undercurrent of rage that surfaces at unexpected moments... A deeply affecting literary debut, the work of a sure and gifted new writer’ Julie Otsuka, author

‘This is an extremely promising debut: the handling of tone and perspective is assured; the prose lucid and elegant throughout’ David Evans

‘Craftsmanlike, larger-than-life, subtle’ Adam Kirsch

‘Chinelo Okparanta's debut collection is astonishing. Her narrators render their stories with such strength and intimacy, such lucidity and composure, that in each and every case the truths of their lives detonate deep inside the reader's heart, with the power and force of revelation’ Paul Harding, author

‘Vivid and haunting in equal measure’

‘Her clear elegant use of language and exploration of family life, migration and love are refreshing and distinctive’

‘A debut collection from a hotly tipped young Nigerian writer’ Claire Allfree

‘Okparanta's prose is tender, beautiful and evocative. These powerful stories of contemporary Nigeria are told with compassion and a certain sense of humour. What a remarkable new talent’ Chika Unigwe, author

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