Virginia Pye is the author of two award-winning novels, Dreams of the Red Phoenix and River of Dust. Her stories, essays, and interviews have appeared in The North American Review, The Baltimore Review, Literary Hub, The New York Times, The Rumpus, Huffington Post and elsewhere. She lived in Richmond, Virginia, for many years and now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Winner of the 2019 Independent Publishers Book Award for Short Story
About the Book
In these bittersweet, compelling stories, Virginia Pye’s characters in Shelf Life of Happiness 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 case, Pye’s characters aim to be better people as they strive for happiness—and some even reap the sweet reward of achieving it.
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
"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."
"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.”
"Compelling and vivid...a fine collection."
"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."
It's rare to open a book, read any given page, and find oneself utterly absorbed. But that's precisely what happened to me as I read Virginia Pye's marvelous new collection of stories, Shelf Life of Happiness. With supple prose and truly immersive worlds, I found myself neglecting the dishes, my ringing phone, and refusing to turn off the lamp and get to sleep. Pye's book simply had more meaning and urgency than any of those things.
—Sonya Larson, The Lit Pub