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My Next Husband Will Be Normal: A St. John Adventure Paperback – February 9, 2012
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While masquerading as a typical memoir of a difficult time in Rae Ellen's life, this book actually a travelogue that works on three levels:
First is the surface level...a wonderful look at St. John, Virgin Islands. I felt I got a good view of life on St. John, the weather, the geography, the culture. I met some interesting people through Rae Ellen's eyes; got a good glimpse of the weather and even gained some understanding of how canvas bags are made (really interesting!). Also gleaned new insights into Rae Ellen's fashion choices (colorful!). Based on this book, I think I might like St. John...just not in hurricane season.
The second level, however, is a tour through the mind of a smart woman traveling through some interesting territory of the mind. As her life is falling apart we get a good view of that back and forth thinking that we all do...'It's awful; it's going to be okay; it's awful.' Following Rae Ellen's journey as she experiences the ups and downs of not only island living but the changes her relationship with husband Tom is going through will seem familiar to anyone who has, in middle age, really begun to question their life. Rae Ellen delves deeply into 'Is that all there is?' and comes up with no real answers...for herself or for us. Her quest for answers leads her to try a variety of methods both professional and not...acupuncture, counseling...drinking...not to mention a listing of self help books that would add that nice Dr. Phil charm to anyone's library.
Level three is Rae Ellen's view of her husband, Tom's, journey into the trans-gender world. Starting with a pair of manties, moving on to negligee's and mani-pedis...Rae Ellen watches Tom transform himself from that former conservative Republican legislator to Rebekah Jane, liberal queen of the island. Her description of his journey is poignant and tinged with a bit of anger...this was not what she signed up for...and yet her love for him allows her to support his journey.
What you'll get from reading 'My Next Husband Will Be Normal' will be a look at a woman who may be very much like yourself, dealing with some stresses and strains that push her into questioning her life and searching for meaning. Much like we all do...she is just honest about her journey!
Finally, what you really need to know about this book is...IT'S REALLY FUNNY! Get it...Read it! Love it!
Paraphrased from Amazon, "Rae Ellen and Tom head for the Caribbean to open canvas goods shop and live the tropical paradise life. There is relentless hard work, endless bureaucratic frustrations and the challenges of living side by side with numerous creatures, inside ones home and out, from pet tarantulas to humongous spiders. But beyond this, there is Tom's discovery that he is transgender, and Rae Ellen's gradual understanding of how life-changing this discovery was to become. She is a master of description infused with emotion that brings the island of St. John to life introducing us to its beauty and to a variety of local characters. And as Rae Ellen and Tom's life together unfolds, we come to know her courageous, generous, and compassionate heart. As in many things, the reality is so much more than the dream."
We also get a look at St. John, Virgin Islands; its weather, the geography and the culture, which is as laid back as you might expect. If you ever wanted to know how canvas bags are made or what the life of a small business owner is like, you learn the details in spades.
The story overlays the basic conflict between Rae Ellen and her transgender husband and I can attest to the validity of the story through personal experience. We follow Tom's desire to dress through the various milestones of evolution for a crossdresser, from early discovery to online support groups (Tri-Ess) through meeting other crossdressers and then dressing in public. All this has the expected emotional impact on Rae Ellen and we come to understand her thoughts and fears as she confronts the future and the likely demise of her marriage.
We see her confusion, anger, sickness and various unsuccessful attempts to deal with the issues confronting them both, even while Tom is often oblivious to what is happening to Rae Ellen. She wonders, "does anything I tell him register". The dissolution of the marriage is cemented when we hear Rae Ellen say, "my particular symptoms can result from not feeling cared for and safe" as this is a basic tenet of male-female relationships. Her feelings towards her husband continue to diminish as his crossdressing becomes more and more the focus of their lives and what they too often talk about. At one point she says, "so how do you feel going through puberty dressed like a 1950s housewife' I wouldn't have married you if I known you'd evolve into someone else entirely" She views this transformation as a bait and switch, which is so often true for many crossdressers, who after denying themselves for many years, pursue their new found needs with vigor in later life.
The good is that they remain friends even after divorce. The unfortunate and heartbreaking truth is that two people who love each other must now begin to live their separate lives