The cover for Small Joys by Elvin James Mensah

Korey B’s Review:

Small Joys

Categories: Queer | Reviews


Elvin James Mensah’s Small Joys is a poignant chronicle of friendship, mental illness, and the power of human connection.

Starting in 2005, protagonist Harley has returned to rural England, where he works at a movie theater after dropping out of college. With an estranged father and a feeling of hopelessness, Harley attempts suicide but is saved by his new roommate Muddy. Despite their differences, a deep friendship develops between the two as Muddy shows Harley the joys of life. However, their friendship is complicated by their romantic entanglements with their friends Chelsea, Finlay, and Noria. As secrets and jealousy threaten their friendships, Harley falters again.

Small Joys explores the complexities of human relationships, portraying them with depth and nuance. The novel centers around the friendship between Harley and Muddy, two individuals who couldn’t be more different on the surface but develop a deep bond over time. Their relationship is a powerful reminder of the importance of chosen family, the people we surround ourselves with who offer us support, love, and acceptance when we need it most.

One of the story’s strongest points is Mensah’s exploration of mental health and its impact on our relationships. Through Harley’s journey, Mensah deftly portrays the struggles that individuals with anxiety and depression often face. Harley’s attempt on his own life is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of these conditions, and Mensah handles the subject matter with sensitivity and care. He explores the nuances of mental illness and the difficulties that can arise when those around us don’t understand what we’re going through.

Harley’s story is one of self-acceptance, self-love, and healing. As he opens up and shares his struggles with his friends and family, he finds the support he needs to move forward. Mensah’s portrayal of Harley’s journey is moving and powerful, capturing the emotional depth and complexity of human relationships. The novel is full of engaging characters, each with struggles and secrets, and their interactions are realistic and authentic. Small Joys is a thought-provoking and heart-warming read that will leave readers contemplating the power of friendship, the importance of support, and the resilience of the human spirit.

This book contains descriptions and mentions of suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety, domestic abuse, child abuse, racism, and homophobia.