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98 of 108 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful--unflinching and uplifting, February 23, 2010
This review is from: This Is Not The Story You Think It Is: A Season of Unlikely Happiness (Hardcover)
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Nine hours after announcing that he's not sure he loves her any more, Laura Munson's husband has not yet returned home from an errand, and she's in some doubt if and when he ever will. It's clear this is not going to be a warm and fuzzy memoir and yes, it's written in present tense. Ms. Munson is very honest in saying she's not sure how the story will end. The only thing she is sure of is that her tormented husband will not get to decide how and when their relationship will end and that she can choose to not suffer, no matter what the outcome. She invites the reader to go along with her on her journey, and it's an unusual and adventurous one, though not always pretty.

The reader becomes Munson's confidante and with her, experiences the disappointment, rage, and hurt caused by her husband's thoughtlessness, but we also discover the joy that comes from the realization that while we can't always control events, we can control our reactions to them. Munson recognizes her husband's pain, and somehow she manages to give him the space he needs to heal, while guarding her own well being as well as that of their children. It's not easy, and her life becomes a series of little battles as she protects her children, maintains her own career, keeps the household running while being compassionate about her husband's state of mind without getting sucked into it. Somehow she also upholds her vow to be happy and not suffer. It helps that she's a writer, has a great therapist, and a few trustworthy and non-judgmental friends and her own interests as well as living in a place of great beauty, with twenty acres, two ponds, a horse, four gardens and two great children, though she thoroughly makes her point that pain is pain, no matter what the economic context.

This could have been a depressing and typical midlife crisis story. It could also have been whiny and New Age. It's none of these. It is an honest and not always flattering chronicle of Ms. Munson's constant struggle over that summer to not suffer, create happiness, and let go of the need and desire to know what happens next. It's a very personal and courageous story that will resonate with anyone who's ever experienced the ups, downs and out of controlness of a long-term relationship. It's inspiring--not because it has a storybook happy ever after ending, although in a way it does, but because the ending is incidental to the story. In her zen like journey, Ms. Munson proves that we do have a stunning power to alter the quality of our lives. That's something we all need to learn and well worth proving.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 11, 2011 7:56:55 AM PDT
C. M. Simon says:
"while we can't always control events, we can control our reactions to them." I like this viewpoint. Most people don't have that viewpoint which is why some have condemned Laura Munson. Investing almost 20 years in a marriage isn't easy. Why should letting go of one be easy either? People say and do things that hurt each other. Giving up often seems easier than looking at the underlying cause for the break and giving each other space to reconsider all the ramifications of divorce. It boils down to feeling compassion even when a spouse has hurt you. It's hard to step back from the hurt of rejection and not be attached to the outcome. Sounds like an "opportunity" to grow...which is exactly what she did. It's a first book...a memoir. It isn't great literature and shouldn't be judged as such. It's a manual for trying to save a marriage if there's any possibility of saving it. Nice alternative to the 'poor me, give up, move on' many experience with divorce...and often multiple divorces when lessons aren't learned. Thanks, Laura, for looking at what's possible when fear-based responses are put aside and replaced with the adult brain of reflecting and responding. There's no guarantee that it will work. However, it does lend itself to a working relationship later on even if there is a divorce. That seems much healthier for their children in the long run.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 14, 2012 11:52:20 AM PDT
Ginny says:
I think what is being said about the author trying to find happiness and take the high road are true. That said, it is very apparent that both her and her husband are "trust fund" kids not really knowing what its like to be truly strapped financially. When he states "we can live on off our investments" ...its very telling. With what she was espousing throughout her story there should have been none left to live on!

Posted on Apr 8, 2012 6:26:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 8, 2012 6:27:15 PM PDT
Bobby says:
The book is honest and generally pretty good. However, you can skip 10 pages and still read her saying basically the same thing. The couple had financial problems which apparently prompted her husband's depression and unresponsiveness, though she never explains why she didn't get a job to help out. It's a classic Men are from Mars Women are From Venus book where the woman talks more and more to ventilate her feelings and the man correspondingly withdraws.

Posted on Sep 11, 2013 1:07:56 PM PDT
Steven Mason says:
Is this a book version of a reality TV show, in which "real people" invite the public into their "private lives"? Is it yet another manifestation of the Facebook "community," in which personal information is shared with "friends" (i.e. readers)?

Is the solution to people's problems taking trips to Italy, paying for expensive helicopter lessons, and sharing the details of your marital problems with the public? Is this the "stunning power to alter the quality of our lives" that the reviewer is talking about? Is this what "zen" is all about?

Sure, pain is pain no matter what the economic context. But from what I can see the author's remedy for pain is to spend gobs of money (that most people don't have) in the hope of jumpstarting passion; she's the one making it into an economic context.

So am I being unfair? Am I missing something? Look at what Publisher's Weekly wrote about this book. Look at the "most helpful critical review" on Amazon. Are they being unfair and did they miss something? I'm in a book club with mostly female members. If you want to tell me this book is worth reading, please say something about the criticisms that appear to be pretty compelling. This book looks like potboiler stuff to me, but I'm open to persuasion to the contrary.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2013 8:44:59 AM PDT
Jody says:
I'll try, Steven.

I recommended this book for my book club, NOT because I agreed with everything Ms. Munson did, but because I do agree that everyone can choose how to react to challenges and empower his or her own quality of life. IMO, that was the takeaway from the book, and again IMO, it was powerful, if just because the choices she made were not those most people would have made. If that makes sense.

During the discussion; and BTW, the consensus was yeah, Ms. Munson was pretty much a princess; everyone had an opportunity to bring up personal situations that could perhaps be improved simply by changing viewpoint. It was one of the better meetings we've had, and we learned some amazing things about each other.

So yes. I still stand behind my five star review--if not for the reasons you think they are. Heh.

Thank you for the thought-provoking comment.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2013 10:16:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2013 10:41:08 AM PDT
Steven Mason says:
Jody, thanks for the response.

I get the part about how Ms. Munson "reacted" to her husband's "midlife crisis" (for lack of a better word). She didn't react in the "standard" way (pleading, demands for marital counseling, anger, threats, etc.). Not only do I get that part, I admire it. When someone you love is going through something, sometimes the thing to do is to give them some time and space rather than manning the lifeboats and abandoning ship. I get that we don't have to treat every marital crisis as the Titanic hitting an iceberg. (I have no idea why I'm using nautical metaphors!)

But the thing is, as admirable as it is, what Ms. Munson did is not as rare or novel as what some people say. There are countless numbers of people who give time and space to their spouses rather than giving up or overreacting at the first sign of trouble. There are people who fight for their marriages and win. There are thousands of couples each year who go through legal separations, as a more formal way of providing time and space for one or both partners, rather than getting divorced. And of course, there are couples who stay together, in outward appearance at least, for the sake of the children, which is, in effect, another way of providing time and space to the relationship. So, in other words, as much as I might admire Ms. Munson's civil and mature response to her husband's "crisis," I just can't see anything particularly novel in it. This sort of thing happens all the time, and I'm old enough to have seen it happen with couples I've known.

So I'm left to look at what else distinguishes this story, and that's where I run into what you call the "princess" thing. And to be quite honest I'm just not into the princess thing. There's something annoying about people who talk about financial hardships when they really, really aren't experiencing anything like real financial hardships. It's like people who complain they are "starving" when they've never in their life experienced real hunger, let alone starvation.

Ms. Munson loved her husband and family, so of course she didn't want it to end. From what I understand, her husband was going through some kind of personal crisis, but it wasn't like he was having affairs or had fallen in love with his gorgeous and adoring admin assistant (though plenty of marriages have survived that and worse things). While Ms. Munson was waiting for things to settle, one way or another, she could, in the meantime, be a princess, as you say. She could take pleasantly distracting trips to Italy, afford to talk things out with a good counselor, and offer pleasant distractions to her husband like helicopter lessons. It's true that medicine is easier to take when sweetened with a little sugar, but in this case we're talking about an awful lot of sugar. I'm concerned that I might get diabetes from reading this book. If my wife woke up one day and said she didn't love me, I could easily win her back if I offered her expensive champagne, foie gras, truffles and caviar (she's a foodie). In fact, if she ever does leave me, it will probably be for a man who can offer her endless foodie delights. She has recently been infatuated with Fabio Viviani; she even wants to get a moped like the one he rides. The way to my wife's heart is definitely through her stomach. :-)

You haven't convinced me that this book is worth reading, but thanks for sharing your thoughts and I'm glad your book club got a good discussion out of it. My book club has been together so long we've learned all of the "amazing" and unamazing things about each other long ago. And the ladies in my group tend to roll their eyes at princesses. :-)
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