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A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal Hardcover – July 11, 2017
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"Waite has a knack for showing the ways that cognitive dissonance can chart pathways in the mind that cause emotional confusion to obscure rational thought."
—Meghan Daum, New York Times Book Review
"[Waite's] memoir is a great source of strength."
"A powerful memoir."
—The New York Post
"Heartbreaking and riveting."
“Like Big Little Lies, A Beautiful Terrible Thing is a startling reminder that fairy tales aren’t real. A master class in suspenseful storytelling, Jen Waite recounts the lies, betrayals, and infidelity she endured with unrestrained honesty and deft candor. I couldn’t turn away.”
—Jillian Lauren, New York Times bestselling author of Some Girls: My Life in a Harem and Everything You Ever Wanted
“How do we really know the ones we love? Sometimes we don't, and in Jen Waite's harrowing, deeply intimate memoir, she gradually comes to discover that the husband she adores might actually be a sociopath. As raw and ragged as the edge of a blade, what makes this book so chilling is that it's truly possible to fall in love with evil, and it can happen to anyone. Be forewarned: you won't sleep until you finish the last page.”
—Caroline Leavitt, author of Cruel Beautiful World and the New York Times bestsellers, Pictures of You and Is This Tomorrow
“Gripping from start to finish. A compelling and cautionary tale about how the longing to be adored and live inside a fairy tale makes you vulnerable to those charming sociopaths in search of someone to exploit.”
—Joe Burgo, PhD, author of The Narcissist You Know
“A twisting, compulsively readable story of devastating betrayal and survival. I could not put this book down.”
—Leigh Stein, author of Land of Enchantment
“Jen Waite has illuminated the experience of betrayal with important and lyric light. Robert Mapplethorpe said, ‘Nothing is finished until you see it.’ I would add that nothing is finished until you tell it as well and as fairly as she has.”
—Suzanne Finnamore, bestselling author of Otherwise Engaged and Split
“A dramatic and powerful case study of dating and marrying someone who may have a hidden personality disorder. Without knowing the warning signs, you too can be caught by surprise.”
—Bill Eddy, LCSW, JD, coauthor of Splitting
“A woman discovers her husband is not whom she thought he was. [T]ension, disbelief, and grief permeate the pages … Those who have been in a manipulative partnership with a narcissistic or abusive person will find Waite’s honest retelling relevant and potent”
“In this emotionally charged memoir, Waite describes how the man she married turned out to be not at all what he seemed. A well-written and at times gripping story of deceit.”
About the Author
Jen Waite lives in Maine with her young daughter. She is applying to graduate school to become a licensed therapist, specializing in recovery from psychopathic relationships.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
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The "After" portions are chillingly delineated, and this reader felt her heart skipping beats and her blood boiling along with Jen's as the author begins to put together the pieces of her husband's affair with a 22-year-old Russian who likes to take selfies (that in and of itself is enough to make one puke) and to unmask his unending lies and manipulations. I took off a half-star, however, for the "Before" portions, which describe the progression of a relationship that seems, on the surface, to be fine. I kept waiting for the "red flags" that normally appear when one engages with a psychopath (they are always there, and usually follow a distinct pattern), however, all I was finding was an attentive, loving man and what seemed an average courtship. Chapters are devoted to Jen getting to know her Marco's son from a previous marriage, Marco’s birthday party, etc. The chapters do nothing to serve the story. Yes, no doubt there were long stretches where Marco seemed like a normal guy - otherwise Jen likely wouldn't have married him - however, if your memoir is billed as one that analyzes a relationship with a psychopath, then the "Before" portions should have done this as well. Instead, it is not until close to the end of the book that Jen doubles back and reveals there were plenty of glaring red flags along the way - the most glaring being that she and Marco started their relationship before he broke up with his long-term girlfriend. So, from the beginning, Jen knew he was capable of cheating. I got the feeling she buried this information so that the reader wouldn't lose sympathy and abandon the story early on. There are other classic red flags too - Marco is a love bomber who buries her in flatteries, he's a law breaker (an illegal alien), has sad, pitying tales he tells her of his former relationships and childhood, and has a tumultuous work history and never has any money. Unfortunately we don't learn all of this until the last quarter of the book as the "After" Jen begins to take stock of her marriage. For me, those signs should have been delineated in the "Before" sections, even if Jen didn't realize they were "signs" at the time.
It's tempting here (as some have done in the comments) to dismiss Marco as a "garden variety jerk and cheater," but as someone who has studied psychopathy intensively, this goes beyond that. This is a man who was cheating from the get-go, and who pushed the sorts of boundaries that even garden variety cheaters normally don't (such as calling his mistress on the day his wife gave birth). In fact, at one point Marco does something that even psychopaths don't normally do - he flat-out tells his wife he has "no feelings." And he does this over and over, and portraying it as some kind of physical ailment. For me, the idealize, devalue and discard pattern of the Cluster B personality type is quite clear. The idealize lasted while Marco needed his green card and money for the restaurant he started (which Jen basically funds) and the devalue as soon as he had those things and Jen's attention turned to their newborn. The man also admits that he was plotting to kill a waitress he'd had an affair with. Hardly garden variety!
One thing that also confused me was that at the end of the book, Jen strongly hints that she decided to take revenge on her philandering husband, and even says that if you're tired of women getting the short end of the stick while waiting for karma to run its course "this next section is for you" - but then no revenge is coming. Unless Jen deciding to become a therapist is some sort of twisted revenge.
Jen Waite is a strong, sympathetic character, her writing is solid if not lyrical, and the book should help anyone in these types of relationships feel they are not alone (though there are hundreds of websites for that too). It was good to see her so quickly grasp the crux of her sad situation and use it to look inward to herself and how to improve what made her vulnerable to a person like this.
P.S. The husband is easy to find online. I’d thought from Jen’s descriptions, he would be very attractive. Well, you know what they say, love is blind.
I know this is a true story and I have so much empathy for what Ms. Waite endured, but it just is not what I was expecting. To be honest, I expected something much darker and was a little shocked that basically, it was a cathartic exercise for the author. I fully believe in the power and value of such an endeavor, but it just sort of left me a little flat. I attribute that to the fact that I have such an amazing husband and could not fathom Marco’s actions.
I do not say any of this to take away from what Ms. Waite experienced! It had to have been so harrowing and debilitating, but I just could not really wrap my head around it. It also enlightened me a bit as to the characteristics of sociopaths. I was actually very shocked. I never thought you could live next door to such a person and have no idea. Now I know and I will be looking!
There is an audio version of A beautiful terrible thing read by the author, and perhaps I would have felt more emotion had I listened to it instead of reading it.
See my other reviews on my blog, Propensity to Discuss