Jamison offers a memoir of a tortuous relationship with an emotionally abusive husband.
Married as teenagers, the author and her husband divorced after having four kids, but they still maintained a friendly relationship, she says. After he had another daughter, Jenna, with his subsequent wife (who, the author says, suffered from nymphomania, abused drugs, and occasionally resorted to theft to support her habits), the author’s ex appealed to the author for help in providing a stable environment for his new child. Jamison was in between relationships and jobs, so she readily agreed (“the thought of having some financial ease was very seductive”), only belatedly realizing that she was once again ensnared in what she characterizes as her ex-husband’s cycle of anger and adoration. However, she became devoted to Jenna and eventually remarried her husband again, ostensibly to give her legal authority to raise the girl. She condemned her husband’s mercurial behavior but turned a blind eye to his frequent affairs; she writes of her own inconsistency, as well, as she ended her extramarital relationship with a compulsive gambler only to resume it later because she felt that only he understood her. Similarly, she repeatedly announced her determination to sell the business that she ran with two of her grown children before finally acting on her words. Jamison details the next decades in excruciating detail, depicting her husband’s bizarre patterns of behavior as well as the dysfunctional conduct of their first four children and Jenna’s emotional scars. The author deserves credit for her brutal honesty, as she frequently reveals herself to be a less-than-ideal parent, with bouts of anger, financial woes, and occasional drug use. She documents both the love and abuse portions of the narrative well, but the healing portion is unclear. Although some of the activities here can be attributed to the culture of the time in which they occurred (the 1980s and ’90s), the book also portrays the children as carrying on the legacy of their parents’ problems. In the end, this memoir unfortunately brings to mind the cliché: “heal thyself.”
A strangely addictive autobiography but one that offers no insights into breaking the cycle of abuse.