Five good reads to get you through tough times
“Congratulations! You’re getting divorced!”
“I’m sorry that you are going through a divorce.”
Those varying acknowledgements of your life change might ring true for you on any given day. Sometimes talking about your next steps with a friend or watching movies about divorce might help. Other times, burrowing your head in a good book might offer some relief from the stressors that come with the transition. Below are five reads that will make you laugh, fill you with rage, uplift your mood, and possibly give you much-needed perspective.
1. When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
By Pema Chödrön
Shambhala Publications, 1997
If you need a spiritual pick-me-up, this collection of talks offers a straightforward way of dealing with the pain of loss through the practice of mindfulness. Pema Chödrön begins the book by sharing how her own marriage ended: out of the blue, her husband came home and told her that he had met someone else. Although her training in Buddhist practice and loving kindness was her “go-to” impulse, she picked up a rock and threw it at him. (It does not get any more real than that, does it? And from an American Buddhist nun!)
She doesn’t recommend keeping a bag of rocks to throw at people for the rest of one’s life, but she does offer ways to overcome difficult situations by staying with the struggle of one’s emotions. A main teaching of Chödrön’s is that instead of masking or hiding your feelings, feel them wholly in order to release them and attain clarity. The book is not formulated into step-by-step instructions but shares a philosophy one can use throughout life.
A quote: “To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.”
2. Season to Taste
By Natalie Young
Little, Brown & Company, 2014
If you want a read that completely takes your mind of off your situation and you have a taste for the macabre, this is it. Lizzie Prain is a middle-aged woman who was growing tired of her husband’s emotional neglect and battering of her self-esteem. One day while the two of them were in their little country cottage garden in the English countryside, she spontaneously whacks him over the head with a spade. She destroys the evidence by chopping up his remains and then freezing them so that she can prepare many meals with his carcass. (I know!)
The narrative focuses on the gritty details of what it would take to consume an entire human body as Lizzie poignantly reflects on the sad truths about her unfulfilling marriage of 30 years. If you can stomach it (pun intended), the humorous book pays homage to foodie, cooking, and self-help culture. Lizzie gives cheerful advice on what kinds of knives to use in the kitchen when deboning and shares her itemized motivational goal list, such as this: “63. Don’t start making comparisons with madwomen in history. You are not one of those.”
A quote: “ . . . eating him is nourishing a human who was, let’s face it, undernourished.”
3. Split: A Memoir of Divorce
By Suzanne Finnamore
Dutton, reprint edition, 2009
In this journey of heartbreak, journalist Suzanne Finnamore writes a sharp account of the end of her five-year marriage. “N,” as she refers to her ex in the book, is a marketing executive who unexpectedly leaves her with their toddler, whom she refers to as “A.” She admits she ignored the signs of N’s detachment—coming home late, no kiss before bedtime, an odd gift or two lying around their Californian home. This acerbically written rant is modeled after the five stages of grief and is explicitly revealing. Even when the possibility of moving on to another relationship presents itself, the twinge of love for her husband is (shockingly to the author) still left in her heart—but not for long. She eventually admits she wants N to drop dead. This is a great read for anyone who doesn’t want to feel so alone in her rage. Expect to laugh and scream right alongside the author.
A quote: “It’s his happiness, I thought, slightly hysterical by now. Therefore he should find it on his own. Had he looked everywhere? I almost laughed; a small titter escaped my lips. From this brittle emotion I stepped off, as if from an unseen curb, into a different life.”
4. It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way: How to Divorce Without Destroying Your Family or Bankrupting Yourself
By Laura A. Wasser
St. Martin’s Press, 2013
When you are planning to divorce, there are many things to consider; having a practical go-to guide to use is necessary. Laura A. Wasser is a high-profile family attorney in California who happens to have handled Kim Kardashian’s divorce. This book is not a celebrity tell-all but is a very comprehensive and easy-to-read guide on the process of divorce. It includes details about navigating separation; finding a lawyer; understanding custody, spousal support, and child support; and dividing assets and liabilities.
Using antidotes and short stories to illuminate her points, Wasser’s empathetic and uplifting tone clarifies her intention of having couples dissolve their unions as unscathed as possible. She is a firm believer that the divorce and relationships of today are not tethered to the antiquated mores of the past. Our times reflect new unions; therefore, a different stance on divorce is required.
A quote: “Relationships end. Our generation accepts that. Relationships unravel or hit a wall or sometimes blow up. What was once wonderful turns sour. Or we change, and what worked before doesn’t make us happy or fulfill us anymore. And our generation is fine with that. We’re okay with ending what doesn’t work and moving on.”
5. Stag’s Leap: Poems
By Sharon Olds
Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Sharon Olds creates a captivating collection of poems named after her and her ex’s favorite wine. Deeply personal and lyrical, Olds’s words are tender as she moves through her process of sorrow, memory, and newfound freedom. Her emotions are brimming through each poem, chronicling the arc of her emotional experience. Reading this poetry feels as if you are looking through the author’s personal diary.
Why read this? Maybe you will get in touch with your own emotions or discover how loss can also derive great beauty. Olds’s pain is personal, but her words bring a universality that anyone can relate to.
A quote: “It is forbidden to love where we are not loved.”
Reading books might not solve your problems, but taking moments for yourself during a stressful time is known to do more good than harm. The list of books available for information and inspiration are endless. Is there a book or books that helped you through divorce, Solo Mom? We’d love to hear about them. Feel free to share them in the comments section below.
Tanisha Christie is an interdisciplinary performing artist and filmmaker. After years of working at the nexus of arts, media, social justice, and healing, she is currently finishing her master of social work (clinical specialization) at Hunter College in New York City. A child of a Solo Mom, she loves to ride her bike to the beach.
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