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In Spite of Everything: A Memoir Hardcover – July 12, 2011

3.9 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“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.”
--Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; First Edition first Printing edition (July 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400068827
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400068821
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,225,711 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I picked up this book, I was skeptical of the whole GenX divorce generation argument, but it turns out Susan Gregory Thomas expects GenX readers to be skeptical - it's part of our profile. While I was prepared to find generalizations about our generation annoying, I was not prepared for the incredibly funny, thoughtful, well written and moving personal story I encountered. My background couldn't be different - I'm a GenXer of an intact nuclear family and very little drama. But Susan Gregory Thomas masterfully weaves her own heart-wrenching story of family abandonment, early rebellion and later experience as a parent with an analysis of our generation that somehow I still recognized and fully appreciated in the context of her experience. I definitely related to her description of the affluent urban parenting culture she found herself in as an adult, and the emotional challenges our generation faces as parents.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book I have been waiting for and I didn't even realize it. Susan Gregory Thomas truly has a fantastic ear for dialogue. The memories she recounts of her parents divorce and then the sad realization that her own marriage is in trouble, is deeply compelling. There are fantastic riffs on the facts of Generation X, how divorce has affected their social and interior lives, all mesmerizing. She blends studies of Gen X with her own experience in such a tale of humor and sarcastic woe, I couldn't bear for it to end. Lucky for me, I just noticed this author also has a funny ass blog. Get it.
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I bought this book because I heard Susan Gregory Thomas interviewed about it on NPR, and I had high hopes that it would speak to the new raft of issues that Gen X children of divorce have in their own marriages. We are facing new challenges that I don't think have been articulated yet - and despite the hyper-connectedness of the social media age, many of us feel alone in our troubles when we shouldn't have to. In some ways, the book delivers - Thomas correctly calls the Baby Boom generation on the carpet for their failings. For so long, Gen X-ers' gripes with their parents have been drowned out by the Boomers protestations that they would get things right with their second marriages, without ever really atoning for their original sins. Thomas is the daughter of an English professor, and she has a highly attuned sense for the resonant metaphors of her generation: she's amusingly shameless about boiling down our world views to the tropes of our touchstones - Star Wars, The Breakfast Club and, weirdly, Eminem, who is more Gen Y than Gen X. Her very brutal honesty is equally alarming and disarming.

With all that said, the author's neuroses seem to run so deep that she only seems to scratch the surface, and many of her self-destructive tendencies seem to play as subtext rather than narrative. Thomas claims that Gen X's defining urge is to be a group of iconoclasts - to be "terminally unique." I think that misses it - Gen X is the most "self-aware" of any generation. Because our parents were so self-involved, and so disconnected from us, we were forced to be hyper aware of our emotional landscape to survive. While Baby Boomers valued being true to the self above all else, Generation Xers seek an ever-expanding global awareness - we want to have a truth that is as informed as possible.
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Format: Hardcover
Thomas strips her experience bare in a (successful) effort to provide us all with an object lesson in capital-D Divorce. I found her ability to clearly extrapolate societal trends (attachment parenting, high-end home renovation, etc) from a generation's unsupervised floundering toward adulthood rang true to me throughout the book, while her personal story grounded these bigger picture issues in the true pain, confusion and struggle we "abandoned" kids were left with. As a divorced Xer with kids, I found her explaining myself to me -- helping me more clearly see the context in which I grew up and in which my marriage dissolved. And, despite the difficult scenes in which Thomas immerses the reader, her love and devotion to her kids and her former husband offer hope for those of us really slogging through the midst of it.

As for the reviewer who found the book irritating because of the upper-middle class trappings presented, I feel that Thomas was pretty straightforward about who she was and where she came from. The book is not a request for sympathy, but one, well-thought-out, at times excruciatingly painful, example (her own upbringing / adulthood) of a greater trend she has observed (how divorce has impacted Gen X'ers current family lives & structures).

And, the expensive renovations and purchase of a single family home in an expensive neighborhood seemed to me to represent less what Thomas was upset about during that period of her life, and more her scrambling to gain every sign of external (X-ternal?) stability and safety when, internally, she had been raised without the capacity to believe in these things. In my reading, these were examples of what she WAS getting since she couldn't find any safety or stability internally.
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