Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies

I thought this book was a novel about a crumbling marriage. It turns out that it’s a true story about a crumbling marriage which makes it a little weirder to read. If it were a novel it would fit squarely into the “domestic fiction” category that I love so much. Is there such a thing as “domestic nonfiction?”

Isabel Gillies had the perfect life: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a beautiful house. Then along came the perfect other woman and poof went the husband, the house, and all the trappings. Isabel had to move back in with her parents, but she’s gotten the perfect revenge by writing this book. Husband Josiah comes across as a cold-hearted jerk who abandons his family, and the French mistress Sylvia is portrayed as predatory and conniving.

Josiah and Sylvia are pseudonyms, but most of the rest of the story’s details are true. I found it by turns sad, funny, fresh, and maddening. Most of the drama takes place in Ohio, where Josiah was (and still is) a professor at Oberlin. Gillies possesses a certain kind of naïveté sometimes found among native Manhattanites and she spends much of the first part of the book exclaiming over the shocking novelty of life in the Midwest where no one has nannies. I found these parts really annoying (as you might guess) and had a little trouble warming up to her because of this. I was embarrassed for her when she admitted being surprised that Ohio had cable TV. Nevertheless, her honesty is endearing and you can’t help but take her side. Which I guess is the point.

(Book 30, 2009)


Serena said...

Wow. I'm not sure I could read a nonfiction book about the breakup of a marriage, but this one sounds interesting.

Becky Holmes said...

Serena, I know! It felt very voyeuristic. I didn't realize it was nonfiction until I had already started reading and happened to notice the library call numbers on the spine!

LINDA from Each Little World said...

I once dated someone who grew up in NYC and I found him (and his big city friends) narrow-minded and surprisingly unenlightened about the rest of the country. That old NYorker cover with the world (or at least the US) ending outside Manhattan was true for them. Amusing at first but ultimately annoying.

Anonymous said...

I noticed elsewhere that she had an ongoing role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (wife of the main detective) but gave it up to go to Oberlin with her professor husband. And then he fell for a fellow professor.

Perhaps she IS naive...?

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