Fantasy Fans

SFINCS Review: A Sorrow Named Joy

Welcome to another review as part of the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship, or SFINCS, which I am judging as part of Team Jamreads alongside a cohort of other lovely judges. For my SFINCS reviews, I will be judging each book on the following five criteria: Characters, Setting, Plot, Writing, and Enjoyment with a bonus point for Cover Art and Formatting. This review contains my honest thoughts and does not represent the opinion or final rating of the team.

This review is for A Sorrow Named Joy by Sarah Chorn and is a finalist allocated to Team Jamreads for review.

Joy desires nothing more than her husband’s happiness. She spends her days creating the perfect life for him in their idyllic suburban home. Everything is neat, predictable, and in its place.

When Joy finds a picture that hints at a past she cannot remember, the facade cracks. As secrets are revealed, Joy realizes her blissful life is crumbling and to find herself, she must first lose herself.

Perfect, after all, is only an illusion.

Find A Sorrow Named Joy on Goodreads

The Review

I’d originally read A Sorrow Named Joy over a year ago, and being the terrible person I am, I didn’t get around to reviewing it… until now! It’s actually rare for me to read a book twice, but this novella certainly warranted a second read-through and revealed aspects of itself and the main character that were easy to miss the first time around.

While this story starts off with a contemporary domestic setting that isn’t usually my thing, it’s worth sticking with for the reveal and aftermath as we learn about Joy and her dilemmas.


As you may gather from the clever title, this is the story of Joy, a housewife devoted to her husband Mike, who maintains her home with impeccable fastidiousness in order to make him happy. She’s satisfied with her place in life, that is until she discovers a mysterious photo of herself that she doesn’t remember… And it unravels her entire life with Mike. Joy is quite simply a joy to read. Her journey is one of hope and optimism.

Contrary to that is Mike, whose journey is one of pain and sorrow. While the story focuses on Joy and her development, I appreciate Mike’s character also and how the author wrote his own path.


The story mostly takes place in Joy and Mike’s home, along with their beautiful garden. Although this is a contemporary setting, there are signs that this could also be set in the near future. While the author writes through the delicate emotional journey that Joy goes through, it’s Joy’s place in the home and her relationship with it that also changes to reflect her journey.


This is the story of Joy as she realises she doesn’t belong in her current life and must find her place within it. There are hints of a mystery here, as we learn the truth about the mysterious photo, but this story is mostly about self-discovery. It’s full of quiet moments, though I wouldn’t call it slow paced. This story takes its time to process Joy’s emotions, and it lingers at just the right places to contemplate and savour them. To say more of the character reveals would be a spoiler, but I found the reveal and ending to be emotionally satisfying. It’s not often I get emotional with books, but this one left a mark.

If you’re looking for action, then this isn’t for you. This book is best enjoyed sitting in the garden with a cup of tea and time to let it unfurl.


The author excels at writing emotional scenes and lyrical prose that are easy enough to understand without being overwhelming. The words simply reach out of the page to curl around your shoulders with a metaphorical hug. They feel so carefully crafted that each word deserves to be there.


A Sorrow Named Joy is the perfect example of a standalone novella. Joy’s character arc feels authentic and complete, and the ending left me with a warm fuzzy feeling in my chest.

Cover Art and Formatting

The cover art is beautiful and really captures the character of Joy.

Final Score: 5/5

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