Unhappy Days

A Madison man looks for love and fulfillment in "My American Unhappiness"

Why are you so unhappy?

This is the question Zeke Pappas poses to unfulfilled souls around the country in My American Unhappiness (2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), the second novel by Dean Bakopoulos, former director of the Wisconsin Book Festival.

Zeke is a lonely thirty-something living in Madison with his mother and nieces, exploring Americans’ collective unhappiness for the humanities nonprofit he runs. When he concludes it’s time he get married, Zeke narrows in on three “prospects.”

While the awkwardness and delusions that follow are certainly cringe-worthy, if not downright uncomfortable at times, Zeke is also laugh-out-loud funny—as are Bakopoulos’s knowing, biting depictions of Madison.

Katie Vaughn is associate editor of Madison Magazine.

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