The first order of business for me when reading Angel Luis Colón’s No Happy Endings (Down & Out Books) was getting myself out of the rollicking NYC universe of The Fury of Blacky Jaguar (review) and planted into the Fantine Park’s New York which is at the minimum more structured.
At its core, No Happy Endings is a heist novella and as most heist stories go, it goes pear-shaped. Colón opens the book in 2007 with a simple donation at a sperm bank. Not an ordinary sperm bank, it turns out to be something out of the movie Clockwork Orange. I did not and will not do any research on the workings of this mechanical sperm extraction — I’ll take Colón’s word for it.
The next chapter set in 2007 introduces us to Park, a young Korean-American who has just electronically robbed a New York horse track/casino. She is quickly tracked down and arrested in an Atlantic City casino.
The book gets it real start five years later; Park is free and no longer on parole. Just as she hopes to get her life back in order with work, not drinking, and spending time with her father, she is strong-armed into a heist by an old mob boss. As Hurricane Sandy approaches the New York metropolitan area, Park balances the threats against her father and herself with planning a heist of the sperm bank. The relationship between Park and her father is a beautiful detail that Colón come back to several times.
He took the beer with a small nod. Held it back up to her. “You act like these hands can open this goddamn thing.”
Fantine smirked and opened the bottle with a twist. “You whine like a baby.” She handed it over.
“I am a baby. That’s what happens when we get old. We all turn into toddlers. Gonna need diapers soon.”
“Toddlers are easier to deal with.” Fantine pulled a chair next to her father and slumped into it. The back pinched her shoulders, but she dealt with it.
Jae took a small sip of his beer and smiled. “Took my pills for the day, but I can’t say I care if this interferes with anything.” He smiled. “Your mother hated beer. Said it was for poor people.”
“Yet we lived in a two-bedroom apartment my whole life.”
“She was cheap.”
Fantine laughed. “No shit.”
Colón explains the Chinese black market for American sperm, but the story is so good in No Happy Endings we don’t care — a good example of how to build a useful (or useless) MacGuffin. Instead, we root for Park to navigate through the assorted criminals who try to deter her all the while she tries to keep her humanity.