In this debut memoir, a woman revisits the tumultuous period during and after the dissolution of her 20-year marriage, recalling her struggles to reimagine and reconstruct her life.
In 2009, six years and seven judges after Willett discovered that her husband, Jake, was cheating on her, a divorce decree was issued. She was “fifty-three and unemployed.” She had not wanted the divorce and did everything she could to fight it. Finally, the author did win one battle: She got to keep the couple’s house, a beautiful Victorian brownstone in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. The legal skirmishes surrounding the divorce offer an illuminating backstory that highlights the changing ethos in the family court system of the new millennium. Some readers may see it as a reflection of the “mommy wars” prevalent in today’s social media universe. Willett had given up her own legal career after her first daughter, Nicki, was born. By 2009, she had not held a full-time job for over a decade. For this decision, she received a disturbing, highly unprofessional dressing down by the seventh judge, a woman: “You’ve offended every working parent in the courthouse by becoming a stay-at-home mom.” Four years later, as the couple’s younger daughter, Ella, a high school senior, was preparing to go off to college, the author accepted the reality that it was time to sell the brownstone. Although she had already spent years returning or discarding the things Jake had left behind, she now was faced with dispensing with the plethora of items that can accumulate over more than a decade of living in a large house. The agonizing process of going through every cabinet, stored carton, and piece of paper forms the organizational structure of the intriguing narrative. Each item triggers a series of vivid memories, creating a story that frequently, sometimes exhaustingly alternates back and forth in time. While there are too many details, the articulate prose is solid (“Clutter experts say if you haven’t used something in a year you should err on the side of throwing it out. I could have filled truckloads using that litmus test, but it seemed wasteful. Besides, what if I plain loved something, even if I barely or never used it?”). Readers who have endured “paring down” will find much here that resonates.
An engaging account of an angry, sad, and ultimately triumphant journey to new beginnings.