What if a woman named Happy had an abusive childhood yet became the central figure in her own massively popular line of very expensive dolls imaginatively created with backstories designed to win the love and admiration of little girls all over the world. Then one day this powerful and very rich woman drives through a quaint village in upstate New York and decides to transform it into Happyland, creating a new home for her Happy Dolls and transforming the village into the ideal town based on the goodness and popularity of the Happy Dolls.
But the nice lady is a corporate vulture out to make the world conform to her wishes (and make a lot of money off it, of course).
The narrative is simple: money and notoriety change the town, people’s lives are destroyed, the rich source of this destruction gets her … wait, how does this really all turn out?
Happy Masters (hero? villain? doll lover?) is a cross between Xavier Roberts, Martha Stewart, and Grendel’s Dame. The town’s people are stock characters and are easily and quickly forgotten, but while you are reading the novel, they work well with the story. Even though the narrative is trite and without any literary merit to speak of, it still is a well written entertainment which many will find to their taste. But don’t expect any awards to be announced for this one.
Despite the hackneyed narrative of Happyland and the stock, unimaginative characters, there is still a simple charm and some elements of a moral lesson in the novel. A decent screenwriter should be able to nail down some of the ambiguities and turn this one into a popular television movie, possibly for the Hallmark channel. Now normally my suggesting that a novel would make a good movie of the week is actually a negative, but in this case I really do think Happyland could make a very interesting movie of the week (or at least an after school special).
But to conclude I want to reveal that Happyland is not just dolls: there is an all girl’s college full of lesbians, enough sex to be tantalizing, and several instances of mob violence. What more could you want … candy canes and gum drops?
Oh, Happyland was written by J. Robert Lennon and includes a forward discussing the difficulties he had in getting this novel published. If you don’t understand why Happyland was a selection for the Experimental Fiction group, just accept that the write-up on the publication and its history suggested that the novel was more transgressive than it was … not one doll came to life and started stabbing people to death.