Author Camilla Gibb ventures into non-fiction with new memoir, This is Happy
Camilla Gibb seems happy enough as she greets me at her Annex home. We’re here to talk about her fine new book, This Is Happy, out on August 18. If you can describe a not-always positive and sometimes downright tragic memoir as magical, then it is that.
After a slew of can’t-put-down, bestselling novels, including Sweetness in the Belly and The Beauty of Humanity Movement, Gibb has ventured inward for her latest.
This Is Happy is her first non-fiction book, a memoir of the ups and downs of her gripping but often sad journey from childhood into adulthood. The book begins with an observation: “I never expected to be happy, to have a sense of belonging somewhere. I didn’t grow up with a sense that this was possible or even desirable.”
But Gibb has plenty of joy in her life, most of it from her five-year-old daughter whom she refers to as “The Egg,” throughout the book. But it took some painful experiences to get there, including the crumbling of her relationship and her partner leaving her while she was pregnant with The Egg. Gibb speaks openly about her depression and her breakup.
Camilla Gibb’s memoir is being released this week by Doubleday Canada.
“I think the breakup was why I experienced grief,” she says. She was also wrongly diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but Gibb remains a big believer in therapy. She hopes This Is Happy will strike a chord with many.
As a mother, how could I not be struck by lines such as: “Four years into our relationship, at the precise age of thirty-six years and four months, I was shocked by the strong and sudden desire to have a baby … a biological hostage-taking that I listened to but interrogated at the same time.” Gibb is that good and that insightful all the time.
But when she started putting fingers to keys, she didn’t even know where This Is Happy would end up. “I didn’t know I was starting a memoir. I was in my first trimester and feeling disenchanted with fiction. It didn’t feel organic to me,” she says. A friend told her to just write and she did. “It was like bad poetry at first, the kind you write when you are an adolescent.”
She says she wrote much of the book in her brother’s trailer, describing herself as “the freak” who sometimes emerged to drink a beer before returning to work. Nowadays, happiness is spending time with The Egg at Caplansky’s eating hot dogs on College Street or at the farmers’ market at the Wychwood Barns.
Powerful memoirs, such as Gibb’s, cut to the very core with their honesty. Just to be safe, she warned her mother well in advance so she might brace herself for the potentially hurtful experience. “I told her it would be painful,” she says. “But she just pointed out the typos. It’s a generational thing.”