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A Memoir

by Susan Shapiro

Pub Date: Dec. 30th, 2003
ISBN: 0-385-33723-X
Publisher: Delacorte

Freelancer Shapiro’s debut memoir catches up with the perps of her top five heartbreaks and rehashes her romantic history.

Approaching 40, the author is suffering the throes of a “ ‘no-book-no-baby’ summer” in New York City. The novel she spent five years writing has been turned down (again), her workaholic husband Aaron is on another business trip, and his lack of sperm motility has thwarted her attempts to get pregnant. Enter ex-boyfriend #1: “Half linebacker, half bespectacled science nerd,” Brad arrives from Boston, his already-sold manuscript in hand. Shapiro pushes aside her resentment (“What the hell did he mean—he had a book coming out. I was the writer!”) and invites him over. In high-heeled “fuck-me slingbacks,” she entertains thoughts of “jumping Brad on the living room floor, getting pregnant, moving to Boston.” Instead, they have lunch. Shapiro steers the conversation to what happened between them years before, conducting the first of her belated exit interviews with former flames. While this conceit was a hit in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, Shapiro’s execution is flimsier. Her light, breezy tone all but assures readers that she won’t be betraying her husband, so her story lacks the tension of something truly being at stake. And she fails to convey a genuine sense of necessity about her quest, whose purpose is diffuse. Although Aaron’s aloofness makes his spouse wonder if she “flunked all five breakups” (she felt abandoned by her exes, feels abandoned by him), and his infertility makes her question whether they’re “flawed as a couple,” it’s not clear how dredging up the detritus of lost loves will shed light. But Shapiro’s story is less enlightening than entertaining. While her candor can give her writing the appearance of real soul-searching, in fact she merely blazes through each encounter, capturing the flirtatious repartee and humor but glossing over the more complicated motivations and emotions.

Amusing—but lacks genuine self-reflection and depth.