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Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation Hardcover – August 7, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Cusk's book is a complicated elegant structure: Renaissance, round and wordy, decorated with chiaroscuro environments and references to the ancient Greeks. Unlike most breakup memoirs, though, Aftermath is a sequel of sorts, and proof that Cusk's creative mission is to grapple with the word chaos of modern life, to formally pound it into submission. Intellectually, Aftermath is exquisite; emotionally, it is process, not progress.––Minna Proctor


Thrilling . . . There are riches buried like gold in the bitter picture she describes . . . An enormously talented writer. (Nan Goldberg, The Boston Globe)

[Aftermath] is engaging throughout. The writing is full of feeling . . . Cusk is a great observer of the roles people--and especially women--play, studying not only the garbs they put on for tradition and ideology, but also how this action affects their understanding of themselves. (Ashley Nelson, The Washington Post)

Striking . . . Startling . . . Unflinching . . . Bold, gripping, original and occasionally darkly funny. (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

I read A Life's Work shortly after I, too, had had a child, and doing so was like finally letting go of a breath I had held for a year. Ostentatiously smart, fearless, the author displayed what almost seemed a compulsion to yank the threads of that impossibly pretty doily tatted by convention around motherhood . . . Her memoir of divorce displays the same ferocity of intellect, humor, and occasional bad mood . . . It is a testament to Cusk's talent that she was able to make something of [divorce] that would not set fire to the reader, only raise the occasional blister; it was she, the newly divorced, who was rendered ash. That is how it always is. But sometimes a phoenix rises. Sometimes the bird takes the shape of a book. (Melissa Holbrook Pierson, The Daily Beast)

In this thought-provoking memoir, Cusk musters her considerable literary powers to mine a complex terrain filled with heartbreak and doubt . . . Interspersed within the narrative are stories within stories, vivid scenes, and piercing observations. (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

Compelling and assured . . . [Cusk is an] exacting, formidable talent. (Alison Pick, The Globe and Mail (Toronto))

A penetrating exploration of gender roles in the context of marriage and family and how the dissolution of a marriage changes a person's relationship with others. (Vanessa Bush, Booklist)

A well-wrought treatise on the stark reality of divorce. Cusk fearlessly cultivates her own aftermath, or 'second sowing,' and chooses to live 'the disorganized life and feel the dark stirrings of creativity, than to dwell in civilized unity, racked by the impulse to destroy.' (Meganne Fabrega, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis))

Artful and nuanced . . . [Cusk] has the novelist's saving graces--honesty, courage, and the ability to depict her experiences in exquisitely crafted language . . . Her exacting, cerebral treatment of such a highly-charged subject is what makes it of literary value. (Amanda Craig, The Independent)

Brilliant . . . Rachel Cusk's books are like pop-up volumes for grown-ups, the prose springing out of the page to bop you neatly between the eyes with its insights. (Julie Burchill, The Observer (London))

Unflinching and beautifully wrought . . . Cusk uses the [memoir] form with great tact and writerly panache. She is at once probing and reticent, mustering her scenes and images to convey the truth of enmeshed lives and loves . . . [Aftermath is] full of beauty--the beauty of language struggling to reveal an experience which is complex and scored with doubts and pain. (Lisa Appignanesi, The Daily Telegraph)

Startlingly insightful . . . Rachel Cusk's writing has quietly thrilled me for years with its intelligence, perception and understated power: ordinary people's flaws are depicted vividly yet without fanfare in brittle, brilliant prose . . . As always with Cusk, it's exhilarating to feel stimulated, to have fabulous phrases and similes cause pulses of pleasure. (Leyla Sanai, The Independent on Sunday)

Readers who admire the difficult discipline of self-scrutiny will find precision, beauty and a complicated truth in Cusk's narrative. (Jane Shilling, New Statesman)

Funny and smart and refreshingly akin to a war diary--sort of Apocalypse Baby Now . . . A Life's Work is wholly original and unabashedly true. (Elissa Schappell, The New York Times Book Review on A Life's Work)

[Cusk] writes with the intelligence, wit, and keen eye for detail demanded by any kind of reporting, and the result is a book on the subject curiously unlike any other. (The New Yorker on A Life's Work)

Pity the writer who has the misfortune to produce a book at the same time and on the same subject as the ridiculously gifted Rachel Cusk. The author of three novels, Cusk brings her clear-eyed wit to the subject of motherhood . . . You get the sense of a superior mind that can't stop itself from whirring away. (Newsday on A Life's Work)

Hauntingly beautiful . . . [Cusk] succeeds in finding an original, literary language to express the journey to motherhood. (The Christian Science Monitor on A Life's Work)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (August 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780374102135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374102135
  • ASIN: 0374102139
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,209,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul Allaer TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
It was about 10 years ago when Rachel Cusk came seemingly out of nowhere with a book called "A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother", a tender and touching look at not just becoming a mother, but also being a wife. The book became an unexpected bestseller, and for good reason, and it made for terrific reading. Now comes this sequel-of-sorts.

In "Aftermatch: On Marriage and Separation" (155 pages), we now learn that the author's marriage has fallen apart, and how she is coping with that, and dealing with her 2 young daughters. Reports Cusk: "My husband said he wanted half of everything, including the children. No, I said. What do you mean, he said. You can't divide people in half, I said." (This reminded me immediately of Radiohead's "Morning Bell", with the now infamous line "Cut the kids in half".) Right after those lines, though, Cusk dives into Greek mythology, and this becomes a recurring theme in the book. Pages and pages about Oedipus, Agamemnon, etc. and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why, or how this relates to the "Marriage and Separation" title of the book. Indeed, I wish the book would focus more on the reasons for the marriage falling apart, which are never fully explored or explained.

Yet there remain enough piercing comments that make this book worthwhile. "Sometimes, in the bath, the children cry. Their nakedness, or the warm water, or the comfort of the old routine--something, anyway, dislodges their sticking-plaster emotions and shows the wound beneath. It is my belief that I gave them that wound, so now I must take all the blame." Or this: "The first time I saw my husband after our separation, I realized, to my surprise, that he hated me.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Wright on November 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I pre-ordered this title as I had read and enjoyed this author's previous book "A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother" which dove darkly into the never-discussed emotional displacement that often follows when a fiercely independent woman becomes a new mother. I was expecting similar reading on divorce experience from the same voice.

"AfterMath: On Marriage and Separation" seemed to be written prematurely within the arc of this particular life experience of the memoir writer. Rachel Cusk does not dig deeply at all into the demise of her marriage nor her own causal pathologies which become painfully obvious to the reader but apparently not yet the writer as pages full of pseudo-intellectual text drone on with barely any emotional depth to be found.

I hoped to love this book but I cannot recommend it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Working Mom on August 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this memoir super difficult to follow, abstract and confusing. At times I did not even know who the author was referring to. Some of it is written in the first person, other chapters are about someone named Sonia. The male characters like her ex-husband, her therapist and someone else are named X, Y and Z... and I could not keep them straight. The narrative was not written in a personal way or a way I could relate to. It was like reading a formal essay, without any humor or even much honesty. I felt like she was afraid to divulge too much information and was writing in a cryptic, emotionally distant fashion. I could not get into it and did not care enough to really try to understand. What a waste of money!
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Garret Freymann-Weyr on June 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a painful analysis of the a fairly painful process. It is a relief to step inside Cusk's brain and spend time with her intelligence.
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Askeptik on September 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Aftermath" is the searing account of one woman's reaction to the
failure of what was to have been her long-lasing relationship. Having been figuratively flayed psychologically and physically by the demise of her marriage,
Rachel Cusk is a "displaced person" displaced within herself, her city and her
country. Yes, she consults the Ancient Greeks, but who better than the great interpretors of psychyoanaltical theater. And then a psychiatrist himself.
One knows that she will find her innerself again just as the eastern European
woman in the short story at the end rights herself after wandering displaced
within British society.
It is a beautifully written memento to what was, what is and what can be.
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