Happy as Larry, or Happy as Larry: A New York Story of Cults, Crushes and Quaaludes, to use its full title, is the debut self-published novel of London based American author and film producer Kaethe Cherney. Quaaludes, in case you’re wondering, was the brand name of a sedative–hypnotic medication intended to treat insomnia, though it was commonly used as a recreational drug in the 1970s and 1980s.
Set in the New York of the nineteen-seventies, the story follows, Saskia, a teenager who finds herself grief stricken following the sudden death of her father, and the subsequent disintegration of her family. Saskia also has to contend with a move from their comfortable home in Gramercy Park, to a not so desirable part of town, and adjust to the new high-school she’s forced to attend.
While Saskia is drawn into a world of partying and drugs, her mother turns to alcohol and takes up with a younger man. Meanwhile while her older sister and brother are lured in a cult, and cut-off contact with the family. Happy as Larry has been praised by reviewers for its keen depictions of a New York that no longer exists, making for a poignant reverie for the nostalgic, or a gritty illustration for those who weren’t there.