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Breaking Apart


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About the Author

A former staff writer for the Washington Post, Wendy Swallow is currently a journalism professor at American University and a freelance writer. A divorced mother of two, Swallow lives in Kensington, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C.


As Swallow points out in her introduction, there are very few memoirs about the dissolution of a marriage or the "breaking apart" in divorce recovery literature: "I...wanted to know if others had felt what I was experiencing: the look in the eyes of my friends when I talked about joint custody; the echo of my son's sadness down a telephone line; the loss of a sense of home as I bounced from rental to rental." Swallow, former staff writer at the Washington Post and the journalism director at American University, fills this hole with style and grace. There is no finger-pointing and no glamorizing of divorce as a carefree lifestyle. Instead, Swallow wryly acknowledges that both parties made mistakes and that both parties tried but couldn't fix them. Divorce may look like an easy way out, but the problems it engenders are just as difficult to solve as those that originally marred the marriage. Swallow and her ex-husband's insistence on minimizing the impact of the divorce on their children shines through as an exemplary way of dealing with a no-win situation. Recommended for all public libraries and for most social work collections. Pam Matthews, Gettysburg Coll. Lib., PA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

This graceful and engrossing memoir of marriage, divorce and rebuilding a life will attract many women readers. Swallow, a former staff writer at the Washington Post, admits that she shouldn't have married Ron, an attractive, volatile intellectual 10 years her senior, because "the person I didn't know very well was that laughing girl with the curly hair and the vulnerable eyes, the one in her mother's wedding dress." She stays married for many reasons: her fantasy of a happy married life; fear of shaming her family; and her need to rescue Ron, whose moods lead to depression and a minor breakdown. A Ph.D. stuck in a government job, jealous of his wife's journalism career, Ron often acts oddly, taking her to a comedy club after she has a miscarriage, for example. Despite their troubles, they have two sons 19 months apart, whom they both adore. When she reaches the breaking point, Swallow assumes that, as the mother, she will get the house, custody of her sons and financial support from her husband. Instead, she is forced to move to a small apartment and live in reduced circumstances. The couple work with a counselor on parenting skills, mediating a divorce that keeps their concern for the children at the forefront. Many readers will warm to Swallow; she is neither angry, self-important nor overly analytical. But some will feel that she's revealed too much about her former husband's emotional problems and too little of his side of the story. (Apr.) Forecast: There is clearly a market for Swallow's story; advertising in the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review will help readers find this engaging book. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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