The winner of this year S.E.A. (South East Asian) Write award, Thailand’s most prestigious literary honor, was announced on August the 31st, 2006. Selected from 64 submissions of novel works, the 10 finalists has been judged by the committee and it’s definitely a difficult task to finally present the award to "The Happiness of Kati," a short novel written by a veteran translator Ngarmphan "Jane" Vejjajiva, which also won an award from England and was selected by the Junior Library Guild (USA) to be added in their prestigious "reading list" to recommend to the states-wide librarians.
The Happiness of Kati tells a story of a nine-year-old girl named "Kati" who stays with her grandparents in a friendly neighborhood faraway from a hectic and busy city life. Kati is a clever and optimistic girl who contends with all aspects of her life except for one thing – she could hardly remember her mother who left her with her grandparents since she was only 4 years old. She always wonder why her mother left her and why haven’t she ever seen her father. Chapters by chapters, the story reveals itself like the peeling of an onion layers by layers as we follow Kati through her unforgettable journey from the old fashioned house by the canal to a bungalow by the sea and an apartment in the big city. The readers would smile, laugh and cry along with Kati as the truth about her family emerges.
In my opinion, this multi-award-winning short novel could be considered as a "gem" in modern Thai literature. The language and style used in the story is simple yet powerful with realistic descriptive narration. The multi-layered characters and a little mysterious story-telling with some plot-twists spice up the novel and make it unputdownable once start reading – at least in my case, I spent my easy Sunday afternoon reading this book straight from the first chapter till the last. I have to admit that I admired Kati’s courageous way of thought and her optimistic point of view. This is truly a happiness in life. The story about family and discovery of your individual self while keeping good relationships with everyone around you is a universal theme. It’s no wonder why "The Happiness of Kati" has been translated into 5 different languages and won several awards. However, the most important award the book received could be no other than the happiness it gave to the readers after finishing the book. All praises should go to the author.
As one of the beginning quotations of a chapter in the book stated, I couldn’t agree more that "the happiness of everyone around us is indeed our own happiness."
P.S. There has already been a sequel of "The Happiness of Kati" under the title "Finding the Moon" and the third installment of "Kati" series will be published soon.