This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story

Knowing where your scars come from doesn’t make them go away. When Jackie Shannon Hollis marries Bill, a man who does not want children, she joyfully commits to a childless life. But soon after the wedding, she returns to the family ranch in rural Oregon and holds her newborn niece. Jackie falls deep into baby love and longing and begins to question her decision. As she navigates the overlapping roles of wife, daughter, aunt, sister, survivor, counselor, and friend, she explores what it really means to choose a different path. This Particular Happiness delves into the messy and beautiful territory of what we keep and what we abandon to make the space for love.


This Particular Happiness, is a deeply moving story about Jackie Shannon Hollis’s decades-long yearning to have a child—and her complicated decision not to. But it’s also about so much more than that. With honesty, generosity, precision and insight, Hollis writes the story of her life—from her girlhood in rural Oregon, where she both broke and followed the rules, to her hard-earned self-acceptance at middle age. This Particular Happiness is a gloriously wise book about one woman’s unexpected path to becoming.”

—Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of Wild

“This deeply engaging memoir wrestles with one of the most important questions of all: Why do we want what we want? Jackie Shannon Hollis explores how her own desires have been shaped by a culture that celebrates ‘mother’ more than any other role for women, and the possibilities that open up when she chooses not to play the role. A vibrant, absorbing, intimate book.”

—Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks

“We all know that having a child changes everything, but so, too, does not having one, and in Hollis’s brave, moving memoir, she explores the bliss, the yearning, the making peace with a life she and her partner chose (and didn’t choose), and how happiness takes on shapes we can never imagine. The perfect book for anyone contemplating motherhood—or not!”

—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“This Particular Happiness examines the particularly female journey—how and where do we make room for love? And whether lover, wife, mother, or daughter, how can we be our most authentic selves? Jackie Shannon Hollis explores this rich terrain with clarity and courage, in spare and lovely prose evocative of the high plains landscape and fertile farmland she hails from.”

—Jennie Shortridge, author of Love Water Memory

“Jackie Shannon Hollis takes a topic that is typically whispered about and stares at it unflinchingly: a woman’s decision whether or not to have children.  She questions the cultural conditioning (told by movies, television, and our families), along with her own biological and emotional responses, that a childless woman is failing to fulfill her destiny. What she excavates during this psychological dig is the truth that what makes any woman’s life successful is the woman herself.  A powerful book for both genders and any sexual orientation.”

—Kate Carroll de Gutes, author of The Authenticity Experiment

“Sit down. Make tea. Hold This Particular Happiness by Jackie Shannon Hollis in your hands and read it slowly because she has written you a love letter. Maybe the intimacy in this prose comes from the tender way she observes. Maybe it’s the lyrical prose flexing, revealing the complicated choices one couple makes under the pressures of small towns, big events, changing times, and the relentless pursuit of understanding. Surely, it’s her writing that captures her wanting that is as open as the wheat country that formed her. In this love letter, you will find your own ‘beautiful ache.’”

—Kate Gray, author of Carry the Sky

“THIS PARTICULAR HAPPINESS claims an important place in the conversation about what it means to be female, especially a female who doesn’t follow the script written by a traditional rural family. Written in honest and intimate chapters, this stunning debut memoir is ultimately a love letter to the power of choice. It is sure to be a must read for every young woman contemplating a childless future, and a few older women wishing they could be granted a do-over.”

—Sheila Hamilton, author of All the Things We Never Knew

“This Particular Happiness is the eloquent unfolding of Jackie Shannon Hollis’s lifelong understanding of and relationship to her own body: what it could do for her, how it could be used against her, and, ultimately, how she claimed it as her own. Her prose is both achingly beautiful and precise, underscoring the journey of discovering integrity to oneself, and the promise of true love.”

—Liz Prato, author of Volcanoes, Palm Trees, and Privilege: Essays on Hawaii

“This book drew me in from the very first scene and gave me what I want in a memoir: the opportunity to see inside a very particular experience as well as to ponder big questions. What blend of family, culture, and personality inform our expectations? What do we seek from love and intimacy? How do we build defenses against trauma? How do we change? Hollis writes with a clarity and rhythm that makes the reading easy going even as she covers difficult and complex territory. The artful interweaving of storylines and time periods reveals a hard-won wisdom.  Any person who has wondered about the path not taken—especially as it relates to child-rearing—will find themselves riveted.”

—Zoe Zolbrod, author of The Telling

“In This Particular Happiness, Jackie mines the depths of who she is and how she wants to be in this complicated world. She doesn’t settle for the obvious path, and even though there’s some disappointment and heartbreak, she learns how to love and be loved in just the way she wants. This book is a celebration of living life using your own damn map.”

—Yuvi Zalkow, author of A Brilliant Novel in the Works

“Jackie Shannon Hollis’s This Particular Happiness doesn’t keep secrets. It’s bare-naked honest.  What a relief. Another sparkling moment of honesty, what we need, what we crave, what we try to remember.”

Leanne Grabel, author of Brontosaurus: Memoir of a Sex Life

“In This Particular Happiness, Jackie Shannon Hollis takes on herself and her marriage and the immense, complex impulse to have a child. It’s like taking on a mountain, that impulse, and rarely examined the way she does it, holding up the mirror to her marriage with incredible detail and with an intent to truly understand her husband without judgment, and herself with him.”

—Kathlene Postma, Professor of Creative Writing, Pacific University


About the Book

This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story
Jackie Shannon Hollis
Forest Avenue Press
Trade paperback
Publication Date: Oct. 1, 2019
Trade Paper: 6 x 9
Cover Price: $16.95
TP ISBN:  9781942436393
294 pages


About the Author

Jackie Shannon Hollis, a lifelong Oregonian, resides with her husband in a home her friends call the tree house. Her education and work as a counselor pushed her to hold up the mirror to her own self. In addition to thinking she would be a mother, she once dreamed of being a June Taylor dancer or a racecar driver. Her short stories and essays have been published in The Sun, Slice, Inkwell, High Desert Journal, VoiceCatcher, Rosebud, and other publications.


Powell’s City of Books, Portland, OR, Oct. 4, launch with after party
PNBA Authors on the Map, Portland, OR, breakfast signing, PNBA tradeshow, Monday, Oct. 7
PNBA table, Forest Avenue, Oct. 7-8
Tsunami Books, Eugene, OR, Oct. 12 with artist Amy Isler Gibson (who appears in the book)
Portland State, Portland, OR,  class on business of book publishing, Oct. 14, with Laura Stanfill
The Neverending Bookshop, Edmonds, Wash, Oct. 19
Beach Books, Seaside OR, pre-paid luncheon at the beach, Oct. 23
Roundabout Books, Bend, OR, Oct. 26 with Liz Prato
Books & Bagels, Deerfield, IL, Nov. 1, Patty Turner Center, with Judy Samuelson
Barnes & Noble, signing, Deerfield, IL, Nov. 2
Private house party, Deerfield, Nov. 2
Annie Bloom’s Books, Portland, OR, Nov. 6, with Bill Hollis
Portland Book Festival, Forest Avenue table, Nov. 9
University Club, Portland, OR, featured author, Nov. 13, private event
Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, OR, Nov. 16
Gilliam County Library, Condon OR, with book club, Dec. 8
Plonk Reading Series, Portland, OR, Dec. 12
Broadway Books: Jan. 30 with niece Annilee
Hillsboro Library, Hillsboro OR, Tea with the Author, Feb. 20
WordFest, Longview, Wash., Thursday, March 10
Lilla Lit, Portland, OR, spring quarter


News, Reviews, and More Coverage

Juncture Interview — In issue 4o of Juncture, Beth Kephart and Jackie talk about structure, plot, pacing and how important the word “maybe” is in memoir and in life.

Author-to-Author InterviewThe Refresh. Jackie pairs up with author Courtenay Hameister to talk about writing memoir, and telling our stories when things don’t go as planned. 

Behind the Chair — Emmanuel Santana interviews Jackie as part of his podcast series featuring creative clients who come to his salon. Listen here as Jackie and Emmanuel cover many topics including self image, sexuality, sexual assault, writing, connection, and (of course) hair styles.

Newspaper article —The Hillsboro Times and the Beaverton Valley Times feature Jackie Shannon Hollis and her new book

Life in the Slow Lane—Author Sherrey Meyer reviews This Particular Happiness.


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