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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
When Carol Ross was 22, Walter Cronkite hired her to write the evening news. He had a crew of writers, but she was his personal writer, the one who sat next to him, just out of camera range. No fool he --- Carol Ross was not just young and talented, she was extremely attractive. Gossip followed, none of it true.

When I met her, she was 24. I had an instant crush, which resulted in a dinner or two. There were many guys meeting her after the broadcast that year, and I don't think she noticed any of us --- she was consumed by her job, and then she was consumed with leaving it to crew on a boat in the Caribbean.

Our next dinner was thirty-five years later. She had another name now, having married John Howard Joynt III. And a very different situation: Howard Joynt, the popular owner of a popular bar in Georgetown, had died. He left behind a five-year-old son and a very puzzled widow, for right after his death, the IRS showed up to demand $3 million in back taxes, penalties and interest.

Carol Joynt didn't have $3 million. And then there was the problem that couldn't be assessed so neatly --- she really hadn't known her husband. At all. He was tall and affable, quick to open the champagne, and he had cast himself as her protector, and she bought it all.

Oh, there were signs. Early in the marriage, he hit her. Pushed her out of the car at night, in a rainstorm, far from home. Drank himself into a hate-spewing jerk.

But then Howard would be his adorable self again. And Carol would go back to sleep.

There are many memoirs by women who don't know their husbands until they die, but none has the brutal irony of "Innocent Spouse."

The irony? She had to convince the IRS that she was an "innocent spouse." Let me translate that legal term of art into common English: The journalist who worked for Cronkite and Charlie Rose and Larry King --- the professional with an inborn knack for ferreting out The Facts --- had to convince professional skeptics that, in her personal life, she was spectacularly incurious. In a word: an idiot who she signed tax returns she never read and was clueless about her husband's cavalier business practices.

It's to Carol Joynt's great credit that she writes as a professional. She knows what the peg of the story is --- how did a smart woman become so dumb --- and she confronts it head-on:

"I wasn't proud of what [the IRS] report said about me, but not because the facts were wrong. They were right. It made clear that in my marriage, I had given over control of my life to another person. Sheltered would be the polite word. Idiotic seemed more like it, even stupid: 'Throughout her adult life, Carol steadfastly avoided getting involved in financial matters because she knew they were complex and she did not understand them.' When the report didn't make me feel like a fool, it made me feel like a concubine: 'Carol was enticed and overwhelmed by Howard's . . . obvious comfort in a good life she had never before experienced. . . . She fell in love with Howard believing he would be able to take care of her and would never let anything happen to her. That was her Faustian pact.' There it was, the truth I was unable to speak. I'd sold myself for what I thought would be a better life..."

In these pages, you see her reach out to powerful friends, and you see them come through. You follow her efforts to run her husband's business long enough to resolve its tax problems. She works overtime to be a good mother to her son. She starts an interview show at the restaurant that is honest, satisfying work and becomes the invaluable Washington correspondent for

This is not exceptional material. Sadly, it's all too common --- this is an old, old story. Happens every day. And will continue to happen as long as men feel the need to dominate and women can't summon the guts to confront.

What makes this memoir exceptional is Carol Joynt's unending honesty. She doesn't spare herself --- on many pages, she really does come off like an idiot. And you really do want to scream: How can you be so dumb? But she perseveres. She learns. She gets it right. Her son's okay. She's still walking.

And, in the end, she does the hardest thing --- she comes to terms with the father of her son, her lover, her protector, her fraud of a husband. As she writes:

"I try not to carry grudges or to remain angry. Like sea anchors, they stop forward motion. I needed to move on to survive. Howard was dead. What good was it to waste time and energy on anger toward a dead person? For the longest time I didn't sense anger, and only toward the bitter end did I come to terms with how it nested deep inside me. I resented that he left me a bankrupt business and no road map, a manager who worked against me, landlords who didn't want me and who were incapable of trusting a woman as a business owner, and this financial mess he'd got himself into that consumed me, my resources, my energy and the time and happiness I should have had to devote to raising our son. I was angry at myself, too, and shared the blame. When I finally at long last was able to close the business and regain my freedom, I cut loose that last sea anchor: my anger."

I wasn't wrong to like this woman. You won't be either.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2011
Living in DC and also employed by restaurants, I recognized a lot of the local names. Altho I couldn't relate to the General Manager that was on board at the beginning and vastly overpaid and a jerk on top of it, I wonder what he is doing now??? Bet he's not pulling in those kind of bucks anymore and verbally abusing his boss. The author was just plain lucky in getting some expertise advice from attorneys. I also worked with Mr. Mallious - RIP - and respected him. Was surprised that he played such hard ball on the lease, but I suppose he was just doing his job representing the owners.
It's very sad to see the building still sitting there with a Nathan's sign on it. It's clear that the owners of the building have a vastly over inflated value of an old building, altho it is in a prime location. Wondering if the building has been purchased yet? I'm surprised that some of those hot shot developers haven't bought it yet.
I enjoyed Nathan's most often for Sunday brunch in the 80's recouping from Saturday night dancing and partying at DeJaVu and will never forget a server once telling me I was a Ronco Bitch a Matic, because I wasn't happy with his choice of cocktail that was guaranteed to free your hangover.
I think the author has come a long ways and obviously had the luck of the Irish in pulling in such fantastic jobs early in life, with no formal training. Sometimes education is overinflated, from personal knowledge, it's really up to each person to make the best of what they have and it's clear Carol did this. I think she did a great job trying to run a restaurant with all of the negatives she had to overcome and manage to raise a son, who seems to be handling life well. Kudos to you! So glad to read that you have found peace in your life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2011
I enjoyed this excellent book from the first to the very last word. Although the issues of "financial literacy" are serious, so many parts in this fast paced book are LOL funny. You can just see the noisy restaurant scene with Carol's former boss Walter Cronkite. She writes that the debt ridden bar "could be zapped by Martians but I'd still be responsible for the rent," and her Q and A Café "was a hit show on the Titanic." Even with all the involvement and mentions of the Washington cognoscenti, one of the most delightful discoveries was to learn the identity of former Washington Life Magazine columnist Michael Strange! I bet spouses asking a lot more questions has picked up considerably because of Carol Joynt's book. I'm reading "Innocent Spouse" again and recommended it to my husband. It is indeed a book for everyone.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2013
This is the second time I've read Carol's story. After the first time I told every friend I knew what a remarkable turn of events for one single person this was. I' m still so impressed that a person can get through all these events .... Carol has and deserves my and everyone who reads this book's admiration. I saw her some time ago promoting this on the Today show. A writer couldn't come up with a novel this good....and this is an extraordinary women's true reality. She is a great inspiration to all women. I will continue to hold this book as one of my all time favorites. To Carol....I wish you so deserve it! I was still in awe after the second time I read it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2011
Kudos to Carol for a book and a life well lived! I have been going to Nathans for decades ... and miss it, but now even have a greater appreciation for Carol and what she has accomplished! I never realized she was such an extremely impressive women in so many ways. Nathan's was certainly filled with the classical "Georgetown" life. Her book is a true inside look at life in Washington, DC ... I appreciating her sharing a glimpse of her personal life, and those people who made it what it was during those decades.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2011
I enjoyed Carol's book "Innocent Spouse" much that I read it in one day! And I am re-reading it. I happened to have lived in Georgetown, for most of the time she writes about, went to a champagne tasting at "Nathan's where a sommelier had a sword to cut the top off of a bottle of champagne. My husband and I and our daughter, who worked on the hill went into this bar and restaurant many times. We had dinner with Jacob Stein, an attorney mentioned in the book, and Carol came over to our table to say hello to Jake. We were in that bar sometimes when it was 5 people deep, so everything she describes is true. It was very nostalgic for me to revisit that time, so I would have just enjoyed it from that viewpoint, but the heart-rendering story of Carol's marriage to Howard, so happy, and then abuse and he was able to conquer his anger through medication. Carol stuck by him all this time, still in love, but unaware of where their money came from, etc. I don't think there is any woman who wouldn't put themselves in her shoes, because most of us just trust our husband when they hand us the IRS paper to sign, and don't bother knowing all the small points, without really investigating our circumstances more. I think with a lot of angst, and hard work
and some good lawyers, they finally found a clause for women like us. It was so
admirable how she wanted to save "Nathan's"..for it has been such a viable
landmark, right in the middle of Georgetown for so long, and legendary. Again,
Carol put herself in the trust of the managers and men in the restaurant, until she could see for herself that they were taking advantage of her. It is a shame that she had to give up so many of the places she loved, but admirable that she was trying to do the right thing. Sounds like she has landed on her feet once again with the Q and A Cafe and resuming her career with getting people to speak for occasions. Obviously she is valuable with her connections, and she will again land on her feet with her column about Washington for the NewYorkSocietyDiary article. She has demonstrated that she will be valuable in doing this..and throughout the book, I admire her honesty about herself, and her shortcomings, and emerges as one to admire for her stamina, abilities, and determination. The
Halkias family must have been crazy or greedy to let her leave Nathan's and the premises. We were in Georgetown about a year ago, and it was so depressing to see Nathan's just sitting there, vacant. It is such a landmark, and they shouldn't let it go the way of the Jockey Club, and other failures. I would hope that someone with a lot of money will decide to open Nathan's again.. Kudo's to Carol for writing her story. It was mesmerizing..even to the romantic meeting of Carol and Howard at the beginning, and his untimely death, and her roller coaster ride with the IRS and trying to keep Nathan's and her personal live going, with her son as a priority. This book is so well written, and you don't want to put it down. Carol Joynt is really a good person, that had a lot of bad things happen to her, but has weathered the storm very well...get this will love it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2014
I felt like a fly on the wall while reading this memoir. I frequented Nathans and still miss it. Walked by it the other day. This is a great read for anyone who loves DC and the old stomping grounds.
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on June 16, 2011
I just finished Carol Ross Joint's book and was quite impressed with the compassionate way she discussed her life, some aspects of her son's and the heartache she went through for so many years. It is a book many women should read and take heed--you can never know too much about your family finances, accounts and real estate. As a professional in the media business, Carol instinctively knew what she personally had to give up and what she needed to keep in the end to maintain her sanity. Sadly her husband turned out to be so much less than she thought she was getting when she married him, and experienced in the good life she was leading when he was alive. Carol is a survivor and a gifted story-teller, and I give her much credit for telling her story in such a clear and open manner that readers could truly understand the problems, and sympathize with her being the innocent spouse. Life is ever-changing, and redemption sometimes takes longer than we would like, but Carol brings home the point that even as we go through the highest points of happiness, we should realize that all could change in a heartbeat. Great read for this summer!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2011
I pre-ordered this book before it came out on Amazon and it went to my home in Washington State. So I picked up a copy at the book signing party at Bridge Books in Georgetown last Friday and then despite the pile of books I have to read I could not put this one down until I finished it. Carol Ross Joynt pulls you in immediately. It is moving and informative. You will learn quite a bit about dealing with the IRS and the consequences of owning a restaurant - a business I list as the last one I would recommend anyone get involved with. This is a true story which makes it that more riveting. We all have our trials and tribulations in life. Read this book and you might consider the problems you have to face trivial. I find nothing more interesting that someone who tells the truth and does it eloquently.
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on June 14, 2011
I'm not a big "reader", but living in the DC area and having eaten at the famous Nathans, I could hardly wait for Innocent Spouse to go to print. I was following the downfall of Nathans in the local papers and on Carol Ross Joynt's website ([...] The book details much more than I ever knew following the story through our local papers...and it a story.

The book itself is a great story, but you also come to learn much about marriage, deceit, and finances. We also learn how men can sweep women off their feet and they don't even know it. The best part of this book is that Carol gets real. She gets real with herself, her life and the with the reader on every word of every page of every chapter.

You will read it quickly and not want to put it down because the suspense of what will happen next grabs you and keeps you hanging on.

Put it in your cart and buy it.
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