The Capacity for Infinite Happiness
Alexis von Konigslow
320 pages | ISBN 978-1-894987-97-4
Mathematician Emily Kogan’s family is good at keeping their secrets. But when she uses her visit to the vacation lodge they own to conduct research for a graduate thesis on measuring the influence of interpersonal relationships, she learns far more than she bargained for. During her investigation at the Treasure Island Lodge – a resort that has catered to the Jewish community since the early 1930s, when their clientele would have been turned away from segregated hotels – she discovers long-buried clues to the mystery of her family’s true identity, and how old friends, kind neighbours and even the famous Harpo Marx all played their roles in an astonishing tale of ill-fated love, extraordinary courage and a daring transatlantic escape.
"Better than clever, charming and elusive, The Capacity for Infinite Happiness is an utter delight unlike anything written before. Here is a story rich and complex told so simply that every page turns itself. The Marx brothers roam our Canadian wood. A beautiful mother prevaricates. Mysteries are hidden like heirlooms and two points of history meet. I couldn't stop reading. The pleasure was effortless and intense." – Linda Spalding, author of The Purchase and The Paper Wife
"The Capacity for Infinite Happiness is about secrets, Harpo Marx, mathematics, failure, belonging, genocide and, above all, the indelible force of love. Alexis von Konigslow has written a linguistic calculus for human connectivity with this sweet, stunning, ingenious novel." – Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, author of All the Broken Things and The Nettle Spinner
"A Tangled Web" (Dorothy F. Lane, Canadian Literature: A Journal of Criticism and Review, 01/12/2015)
"While the reader may not initially feel a fascination or link with Harpo Marx—and other reviewers have noted their ignorance or even disinterest upon picking up the book—the dexterity of Von Konigslow’s storytelling produces a narrative that will not easily be forgotten."
"Review" (Michael Bourne, Events: Poetry and Prose, 07/21/2016)
“Konigslow is a gifted writer who has assembled a cast of complex, sharply observed characters. Her soulful, introspective Harpo is a refreshing contrast to the manic clown with his bicycle horn he played on-screen, and his scenes with his brothers Groucho and Chico, who are also vacationing at the resort, crackle with Borscht Belt charm.”
"Debut novels from Philip Teir, Naomie Jackson and Alexis von Konigslow" (Jade Colbert, Globe and Mail, 24/07/2015)
“At this novel’s heart is a mystery, one that can sustain propelling the story forward and back. It’s Arcadia for the connected age.”
Review (Mark Sampson, Free Range Reading, 09/07/2015)
“Von Konigslow wins us over with both the sheer elegance of her prose and the scope of this novel’s vision. Harpo Marx is fully imagined here, and his experiences help to provide a buttress of plausibility; Emily, meanwhile, proves a worthy lead character for her thread, a woman with a sensitive eye and an open ear.”
Review (Naomi, Consumed by Ink, 03/06/2015)
“This is a story about family secrets, the complexities of love, and the way our lives interconnect with each other, sometimes in unexpected ways. Even though I had the secrets mostly worked out by the end of the book, it was still interesting to read about how it all played out within the family.”
Review (Carolyn Smart, Goodreads, 22/05/2015)
"The writing is gorgeous, the narrative engaging -- how can you not want to read a book with Harpo Marx as the heroic lead? This is a book about secrets and family history and letters and anti-Semitism and art and most of all, love."
Review (Kerry Clare, Pickle Me This, 18/05/2015)
“A weird, enthralling, and singularly original book.”
Round-up of Cheer: 17 Feel-Good Books (All Lit Up, 14/12/2021)
Alexis's novel makes this round-up of feel-good books!
The Books I Want to Read Again (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 26/03/2020)
Kerry Clare chooses Alexis' book as one that she "Want[s] to Read Again."
"Canadian write good books: here are 5 recent ones to consider" (Sarah Murdoch, Toronto Star, 05/09/2015)
"The author is a Toronto woman with degrees in math, physics and creative writing, and the plot of her first novel is similarly audacious."
"Math and science tell great stories, too" (Sue Carter, Ottawa Metro, 04/06/2015)
“In a parallel storyline, The Capacity for Infinite Happiness travels back to reveal Emily’s dark family secrets, intertwined with those of their famous guests: the comedic Marx Brothers.”
"Vocabulary lessons" (Alexis von Konigslow, Quill & Quire, 01/07/2015)
"As a writer, I struggle with this closeness of thought and these choices of words…. I want to hold readers close, but I want it to be a pleasant, or at least interesting, experience."
Read the first few chapters of The Capacity for Infinite Happiness
About the Author
Alexis von Konigslow has a degree in Mathematics and Physics, and an M.F.A. in creative writing. She lives in Toronto with her husband and son.