Cover image for The happy room
The happy room
Palmer, Catherine, 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2002.
Physical Description:
359 pages ; 22 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Christian

On Order



Three adult siblings are reunited when one of them is hospitalized with a life-threatening illness. As Julia and Peter face the reality of their younger sister's condition, they are also forced to face unpleasant truths about growing up as missionary kids. As they reminisce about both good and bad memories of their childhood in Africa, Julia and Peter find hope, healing, and forgiveness.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Palmer, daughter of missionaries to Kenya, turns in a frankly autobiographical work with The Happy Room, about siblings Julia, Peter, and Debbie Mossman who gather at Debbie's bedside when her anorexia brings her near death. Childhood neglect is in part responsible for Debbie's condition, as it is for Julia's "doormat" psychology and Peter's self-destructive rebelliousness. The siblings begin to come to terms with it all in their reminiscences of a Christian boarding school where their parents sent them nine months of the year. They grew up with shattered identities, not Kenyan, not really American. Was it the fault of their parents, who could not be dedicated missionaries and good parents as well? Maybe, maybe not, Palmer suggests, in this deeply felt and personal novel, her best in a string of increasingly accomplished efforts. John Mort.

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this important but disturbing novel for the Christian market, an award-winning romance writer switches genres to expose what happens when parents neglect their families in the name of God. As three "missionary kids" hit middle age, they find that their parents' prolonged absences while they were children have kept them from functioning normally as adults. Julia Chappell is the seemingly perfect wife of a youth minister, but she is unhappily pregnant again with twins after her husband's failed vasectomy. Julia's brother, Peter Mossman, is on the brink of divorce because of his outbursts of anger. When their sister, Debbie Mossman, lies near death with anorexia, Julia and Peter rush to her hospital bed. Together they unpack the bitter memories of their childhood abandonment, beginning with the "Happy Room" day care on board a ship bound for Africa. Palmer uses journal-like entries to flash back to episodes as seen through the eyes of each sibling. When confronted, their mother can't understand her children's anguish over the past, since she and her husband were only following "God's will." The novel is a thinly disguised roman clef Palmer grew up the daughter of missionary parents in Africa, and the story rings with authenticity. It isn't flawless; there's a needlessly repetitive section where Debbie discusses her childhood bout with malaria, and Peter's return to faith is wrapped up too neatly. But Palmer deserves kudos for plowing new ground for CBA readers, who are used to having their missionaries portrayed with polished halos. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved