Isabel Gillies wrote the bestselling memoir Happens Every Day after her first husband left her for another woman. Happiness, of course, truly is the best revenge, and her latest, A Year and Six Seconds, is proof that new love can come along faster than you expect.
Gillies took a break from a busy writing schedule to share her thoughts on love, loss and remarriage.
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It took courage to write Happens Every Day while you were still licking your wounds over the loss of your first marriage. Why did you undertake this painful project, especially so soon after your divorce?
There were a couple of reasons for why I wrote Happens Every Day, but the biggest one was because I had a big, strong impulse to do it, almost beyond my control. I can’t say that it took courage really—it was driven more by a need or interest to get my feelings into words, and there was no other way to do that except for writing it down. I wish I could take credit for being brave or courageous, but it wasn’t that as much as it was just living out an idea. And then, very surprisingly, it turned out that I loved to write every day.
Did you ever think that you would find true love again?
I hoped. And I sort of thought that the old stand-by “where there is a will there is a way” might come into play, but there were many times, most of them in the middle of the night, that I was frightened it might not happen again.
Although your book reads like words of wisdom for women experiencing the same thing, do you have one specific piece of advice for single mothers like you were, looking to make that leap of faith and try to find love again?I do, and I think this more and more as the years go by [that] my advice would be to participate. I know it’s so hard to find time and motivation to go to the church social—I have one unmarried friend, in her 40s, who met the GREATEST architect at church; now they are in love—or take a cooking class or volunteer somewhere, [at] a community garden, library, whatever interests you, but I truly think that wonderful, surprising turns in life come to you when you are active and doing something that you like. My parents met working on a presidential campaign for example. Not only will you find it satisfying and fun, which will make you naturally attractive to others, but you will be close to people who are of a like mind, and you never know that one of those people might just be really kind, sexy and single.
In One Year and Six Seconds, you write about how you now believe that Sylvia, your first husband’s new wife and the woman who broke up your first marriage, is “pretty great.” That seems very big-hearted of you.
Yes, I think she is pretty great. I think that life is long, but too short to hold anger and grudges. I am happily remarried, and it’s greedy to be happy and still mad at someone who was involved in a difficult period of the past. Sylvia and I have moved forward in a way that I am very proud of, and I can only hope that will be a good thing for the kids. Their happiness is a common goal we all share.
When you mention in the introduction, “I’m not saying that you will ever be over the breakup of your marriage,” is this true for you? Do you still think about the first marriage?
Sure I think about my first marriage...I think I think about it less and less as time passes, but I learned a lot from the experience, and it’s a part of who I am. Maybe you could compare it to college. I’m not sure anyone sits around and thinks about their years at college every day, but those years inform who you are today, so the experience is always with you.
Does it ever feel strange to you to write about subjects as personal as your children's lives and your parenting abilities? That can just be such a sensitive area.
I think about it all the time. First of all parenting is an ever-changing process so writing it about it definitively is tricky, and writing about your personal life is tricky. You have to strike balances and think carefully about what waves you make, or how big they are.
You’re a great role model for single mothers who refuse to give up on the dream of love and marriage. Any final words of advice?
Never give up on dreams, or maybe better, never give up on moving forward. I think dreams come true with forward motion.