Happy Never After

Jill Stark

Happy Never After
Scribe Publications
30 July 2018

Happy Never After

Jill Stark

Jill Stark was living a dream. She had a coveted job as a senior journalist, she was dating a sports star, and she’d just achieved a lifelong ambition by publishing a book, which was rapidly becoming a bestseller. After years of crippling anxiety, striving for the fairytale ending, it finally seemed she’d found her ticket to contentment.

But then it all started to go wrong. Getting everything she’d ever wanted plunged Jill into the darkest period in her life, where she struggled with acute anxiety and fell into a deep depression.

The experience forced her to ask if we’ve been sold a lie. Could the relentless pursuit of happiness actually be making us miserable? Why, in a western world with more opportunity, choice and wealth than ever before, are so many of us depressed, anxious and medicated?

In this forensic examination of our age of anxiety, Stark explores how we can unplug, keep calm, and find meaning in a frenetic world designed to drive us mad. With humour, insight, and razor-sharp wit, she tells of her own struggles with a lifetime of anxiety against the backdrop of a stressed-out modern world, where many are drowning in a sea of digital distraction and white noise.

We’re all looking for answers. We all want the happy ever after. What would happen if we stopped chasing, stayed still, and found calm amid the chaos?


Five years after publishing High Sobriety, Jill Stark returns with Happy Never After, somewhere between a follow-up memoir and investigative journalism.

Where High Sobriety explored Stark’s and the general community’s relationship with alcohol, here she turns her sights to her battle with mental health. She recounts in great detail her experience with panic attacks, bursts of depression, and being inside a psychotherapist’s room, while researching the physiological and cultural factors that play a part in the concerning rise of mental health issues in developed nations.

With the same keen eye evident in her previous book, Happy Never After is full of far-reaching and astoundingly thorough research. Stark addresses the affirmation trends in the 80s and how they evolved into contemporary bestsellers such as Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck and Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life, while drawing on Russ Harris’s research into happiness as a cultural enterprise and the discovery of neuroplasticity, as spearheaded by Norman Doidge (author of The Brain That Changes Itself). While the title and the cover look set to appeal to a fairly specific audience, Happy Never After is far broader in scope than an attempt to dismantle the illusion of the fairytale wedding.

Stark walks us through her psychotherapy sessions, revealing the long and exhausting process of facing the root of her anxiety and finding new ways to work through it without letting it become destructive. At times the candidness with which she opens up to the reader made me feel uncomfortable, but that just makes it all the more important in breaking down the stigma.

With public awareness of these issues gaining momentum, this is a must-read for anyone who has either struggled with mental health themselves or knows someone who has – and according to Stark, that’s most of us.

Tom Davies works as a bookseller at Readings Doncaster.

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