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In Spite of Everything: A Memoir Hardcover – July 12, 2011
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“If you've been through the pain of a divorce or watched one at close range, you may recognize emotions here that you've never seen written down anywhere else….Thomas' deeply felt prose and pitilessly intelligent self-analysis raise her story to something on the order of a generational anthem (which, as Gen X enters middle age, it sorely needs).”
“By turns hilarious and heartbreaking….As profound as it is rollickingly funny….What sets Susan Gregory Thomas’ In Spite of Everything apart from other tales of charred families is the propulsive force of her writing, and her effort to connect her parents’ divorce, and later her own, to a larger generational narrative….If you’ve ever thought about getting married, or wondered about how best to raise children, real or hypothetical, or had parents, put In Spite of Everything on your list.”
“A lively narrative…[sprinkled] with broadening references to literature, religion, pop culture, and statistics….Let’s face it: It’s fascinating to watch a marriage unravel….Happily for us, [Thomas’s] pain and missteps, and the exploration and enlightenment they provoke, make for a page-turning saga.”
“Razor-sharp….If Generation X is not unique in suffering; its particular suffering is unique, and Thomas provides an insightful, well-researched, sometimes funny and often harrowing view of it.”
--San Francisco Chronicle
“Raw and courageous....A memoir that speaks intimately, and with honesty, for an entire generation that needed to be heard.”
“Raw, funny, searingly honest and electrifyingly intelligent . . . As a field guide to the beat-up, busted heart of Generation X, it’s damn near definitive. Thomas solves the mystery of her devastating divorce—and the emotional catastrophe that defines a generation.”—Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians
“This smart and emotionally mighty memoir will show you how every family of divorce is unhappy in ways we can all relate to, learn from, cry about, and (after reading such a great book) transcend. Sad and funny, In Spite of Everything is the first book to dissect, with scientific definitiveness, the Busted-Marriage Generation. It also tells a very moving personal story with real beauty.”—Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
“At once a literate and poignant memoir and incisive journalistic illumination of the cult of domestic consumption, In Spite of Everything is a remarkable and moving study of an American generation's uneasy search for home.”—Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
“Honest, riveting and illuminating . . . An indelible portrait, not only of a family, but of an entire generation shaped by loneliness. Breathtakingly beautiful from start to finish.”—Lisa Dierbeck, author of One Pill Makes You Smaller
“This book is brave, startling, profoundly moving, and I could not put it down.”—Joanna Hershon, author of Swimming
“In In Spite of Everything, Susan Gregory Thomas goes way beyond American pop culture’s cute, run-of-the-mill bromides about marriage and parenting and gives us a work that's shot through with a stark and clarifying light of honesty. It is an inspiring book—and an often uproariously funny one, too. In Spite of Everything establishes Susan Gregory Thomas as one of the most important new voices in American writing.”—Jeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World
“Engrossing . . . A deeply moving and personal tale of divorce, love, motherhood, and what makes us who we are.”—Marian Fontana, author of A Widow’s Walk
“Harrowing, hilarious, and profoundly wise . . . [In Spite of Everything] is the work of a supreme talent and an emotional daredevil, a woman courageous enough to reveal every scar that lines her heart.”—Brendan I. Koerner, author of Now the Hell Will Start
“As a memoir, In Spite of Everything is both raw and smart; as a generational analysis, it is spot on—culturally, economically and psychologically. This is an engaging and fast-paced memoir . . . and a generational portrait for those who refuse to be categorized.”—Lisa Chamberlain, author of Slackonomics
“In Spite of Everything is a profound emotional history of the last forty years. Susan Gregory Thomas is the expert on Generation X’s emotional fallout. All recovering latchkey kids should read this book.”—Ada Calhoun, author of Instinctive Parenting
About the Author
Susan Gregory Thomas is a journalist and the author of Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds. Formerly a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and co-host of public television’s Digital Duo, she has also written for Time, The Washington Post, and Glamour, among others. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
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Strangely, I had also recently read Claire Dederer's GenX parenting (and yoga) memoir, Poser, which I found unengaging and irritating. Thomas hits many of the same themes - including what it's like to be a parent after being a child of divorce and the lure of "attachment parenting" for many of our generation -- but her book blows Dederer's out of the water both in the quality of the writing and the depth of her self-knowledge and emotional experience. I was so drawn into the story of her family -- then and now -- that I read the book in two days and haven't stopped thinking about it since.
I'm 40 now, and I can relate to the neurotic urge to avoid divorce among people my age whose parents divorced around 1980. The author's description of that time was dead-on, exactly right. The story of the author's childhood and marriage flow seemlessly together, which in itself tells the reader the real theme of the book. It's not really about marriage and divorce at all. It's about childhood and how we either grow into adults or fail to leave behind our trauma.
The married couple in the book are so focused on their children that they fail to understand what divorce is- it's when the two people in the marriage can't make it together anymore. They both spend so much time parenting according to their own ideas of what parents are supposed to do that they forget that marriage is between two adults. The author spends almost no time talking about what she did for her husband. I get the sense she put very little effort into helping him with anything, and I get the sense he didn't want that much help. A very telling part of the book is when she realizes that her husband is a parent first, and that before they had kids he was putting his energy into taking care of his wife.
So, it was always two individuals pursuing their own lives, without much bond between them. It's sad, but it's also very self-absorbed. There isn't much attempt at building a relationship with her husband beyond daily parenting tasks and their two different work lives. The author gets points for being honest about all of this, and I respect that.
In the end, when the divorce happens, I was left wondering whether all the anger at boomer generation parents was justified. At least they were honest about their selfishness. Ignoring your spouse to pursue your own life, even if that life is an obsession with parenting, isn't that different than what happened with her parents. There's also the matter of results- if you really do want to be a good parent you need to maintain the relationship with your spouse. That's a necessary requirement for providing a stable home for children. It's all the same thing.
There was some curious gaps, like how someone who was put in a psychiatric ward during her senior year of high school was able to graduate from Columbia a few years later. It's her business what she wants to share with the world, and perhaps it had no bearing on the story she was telling. Still, it seemed to me that it might bear on what happened.
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Insert Alec Baldwin "Bored.Read more
So here are my two words: