Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Book Review

Book Review: The Way They Were by Brooke L. Foster

The book The Way They Were: Dealing with the Divorce of Your Parents After a Lifetime of Marriage by Brooke L. Foster was released last Tuesday. The four copies of it that I'd preordered arrived in the mail last week, and I immediately set to reading it.

Books aimed at people who were adults when their parents divorced are alarmingly scarce. The only other book exclusively on this subject (at least that I'm aware of) is the out-of-print A Grief out of Season by Noelle Fintushel and Nancy Hilliard, dating more than fifteen years back. I was a regular on the Adult Children of Divorce Yahoo group for a long time, and it was very common to hear the complaint that the only book out there on the topic of what we were going through was not available. I got my copy (which I treasure) from the Urbana Free Library discard pile. If the folks at the library had known, they could have sold it on eBay for a pretty penny!

Since I was such a regular on the group, I was approached by Brooke Foster to tell my story. I was delighted to do so, and I also put her in touch with my two sisters, so that she might get an entire family's perspective instead of simply mine. She was a good interviewer, and a wonderful listener. I was looking forward to seeing how she would incorporate our stories into her book.

I really liked the book. The writing in it was beautiful; her words were poetry and the content flowed seamlessly. She incorporated our stories and the stories of many others into the book, and the story about her family was also central. In a way, she went in chronological order, because she treated topics in the order in which she became aware of them throughout the life-changing divorce of her parents. For example, it is not until the end of the book that she discusses the effects of parents' divorce on their adult children's intimate relationships, because that's the point at which she began to be aware of those effects, whereas in my experience, the unquestioning trust of my partner was one of the first casualties of the divorce. The fact that I was already married is what I think accounts for this difference.

At the Barnes and Noble website, I read one review packed with unwarranted venom, and I had to wonder if the reviewer had read the same book that I did. For example, he describes the author as unable to understand that parents are "human beings with evolving needs." The thing is, she not only understands that, but explains it in the very first chapter! On top of that, the books he recommends over this one weren't even on the same topic! His preconceived notions of the book were evidently uninfluenced by the words between the covers.

I think that since I've read just about every book about adult children of divorce, and plenty of other books on family dynamics, family estrangements, and the like, I didn't really learn much from the book, but it was good to have all that information in one place. I think that A Grief Out of Season is more methodical and therefore maybe a little more helpful, but this is a very good book too. I would recommend this book highly to any adult seeking to come to terms with their parents' divorce.

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