A debut memoir focusing on a woman’s troubled marriages.
Van Sant’s memoir opens with her in jail. She believes she’s being charged with aggravated battery, but at the sentencing hearing, she learns she’s being charged with attempted murder. While she lets readers know that the victim is an ex-husband, she saves the rest of the details for later. After describing her desperate situation in jail, Van Sant recounts her life story, beginning with a somewhat troubled childhood thanks in part to her alcoholic father. A pregnancy at age 20 helped spur her into marrying her boyfriend. Having never cooked a meal or washed a load of laundry, the young wife found herself in over her head, but it was her husband’s habit of sowing his wild oats that brought about the marriage’s end. For the author, that began a pattern of marriages that didn’t work out. Abuse, both mental and physical, men who rely on her to pay the bills, and an ex-husband who kidnaps their infant daughter and runs away to Canada are just some of the issues with which she had to contend. Thanks to Van Sant’s colorful life and the characters she ends up marrying, the memoir is free of dull moments. While readers will likely cringe at some of the decisions she made, including the one that landed her in jail, she remains a sympathetic figure whom readers will want to see find the right path. The occasional clunky sentence and some interesting word choices interrupt the memoir’s conversational style. For instance, several times the word “rotated” is used in place of “turned”—“As she entered our living room, he rotated to the three of us”—and some sentences have a lawyerly ring to them: “The holidays soon arrived with no favorable result in regards to my marriage.” Nevertheless, the strong narrative voice and the compelling story overcome these distractions.
An engaging cautionary tale; those who’ve had their own relationship struggles will relate and may even realize that they don’t have it as bad as they thought.