“The human spirit is so malleable,..”

theshelflifeThe Shelf Life of Happiness

Kindle Edition
Author: David Machado
(Translated by Hillary Locke)
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Expected 9/1/16
Pages: 234
Genre: Fiction
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Buy a copy of The Shelf Life of Happiness


Struggling to overcome huge financial difficulties in Portugal, Daniel stays behind as his wife takes their children and moves to Viana with family to make ends meet. Living in denial, he holds onto the belief that he will find a job and bring his family home. However, while refusing to change, Daniel loses sight of what truly matters. After losing his home, his vehicle being torched and living out of an abandoned office, will Daniel be able to finally let go and recognize what is most important to him and discover his own happiness?

My Review:

Can we measure happiness? Can we actually put a number on it, and if so what variables must we take into account?  The Shelf Life of Happiness takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery through our very unfortunate protagonist, Daniel.

As we are immediately introduced to several hapless and eccentric characters, this story immediately engages you. I am going to suggest that the translation must be pretty solid, because the story reads very well. I was sucked in and not released until the very end.

Our main character Daniel, his agoraphobic friend Xavier, family and others are convincing and mesmeric. Instantly you feel for them and with them. There is a depth of sadness and empathy drawn from the reader with the author’s incredible narration told through Daniel’s letters to an incarcerated friend.

“That happens whenever I visit Xavier: I walk in, riding light on some naive wind, thinking it will be good to see him, that we’ll talk for hours like we did when we were kids, but then within minutes I begin to feel sadness in the air mingling with the smoke and the shadows, and all I can think about it leaving as soon as possible.”
-David Machado, The Shelf Life of Happiness

Daniel’s friend Xavier analyzes everything while he is tucked away in his small apartment. He has even developed a “happiness index” ranking each country by the average happiness of the citizens. He believes that if you move to a country that matches your level of happiness, you can continue to increase that level and move on. Daniel decides to take Xavier’s survey to determine his own level of happiness. However, as the economy is crumbling and he continues to face ongoing hardships, he begins to constantly reassess exactly how satisfied he is with his own life, and what truly factors into the numerical value he would place on it.

I will not paint this one up, it is a bleak story. Daniel seriously has lost almost everything but his car, and even that has been torched!


The Shelf Life of Happiness is full of sorrow, despair, and loss. But there is also a message of hope and a strong reminder of what is truly valuable in one’s life if you take the time to really allow this one to sink in. While there is no exciting plot or grand finale, I found this title to be captivating from beginning to end. The author wisely uses one man’s misfortune to convey an uplifting and powerful message to the reader.

“We’re invincible. As long as we keep believing we’re invincible, incredible things can happen. And suddenly, there was electricity in my veins, and my head was full of words, all the words.”
-David Machado, The Shelf Life of Happiness


Can you quantify your happiness?
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

2 thoughts on ““The human spirit is so malleable,..”

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