In her debut memoir, Freed, a Mississippi coastal resident, recounts the sudden breakup of her marriage on the eve of Hurricane Katrina.
Having recently returned from a pleasant trip to Miami to visit her military surgeon husband, Conner, Freed was shocked to receive an email from him suggesting the two of them ought to divorce. Conner suggested that if they were to move forward, he would like Freed, a successful math professor, to undergo breast enlargement and commit to sex at least once a day. Aware that Conner was under a lot of pressure and was a high-functioning alcoholic, Freed tried unsuccessfully to reason with him. With Hurricane Katrina expected to make landfall at any time, Freed tried to come to grips with their failed relationship, even while evacuating her coastal home with her toddler-aged daughter, Genoa. After waiting out the storm on safer ground with a neighboring couple, Freed returned to find her house and the area she called home decimated. Still reeling from the sense that she had been married to a man she didn’t know, and with no home to return to, Freed had to hit the ground running—dealing with FEMA, insurance adjustors, divorce attorneys, even a private detective she employed to shadow her husband in Miami. With the help of friends and family, Freed was able to put her life back together and face the future on her own terms as an academic and single mother. Freed’s prose is often gorgeous and surprising, as when, amid the chaos and destruction, she writes: “The air tasted delicious. I swallowed and felt her deep inside me, filling me up. She was full of energy. We were explorers in her world. She led us. The ominous excitement, frightening and invigorating, teased us forward…we were respectful and vigilant. We knew we were not in charge.” While the memoir certainly succeeds at the personal, confessional level, the sporadic attempts at broader social commentary can be rather nearsighted. It’s difficult not to balk, for instance, when white, affluent Freed relates a brief shared moment at Wal-Mart with “Another mother, obese, with gold and missing teeth, and two children in worn clothes,” prompting Freed’s observation of how “wonderfully equalizing” Katrina was.
A candid account of personal devastation and renewal.