Cover image for Breaking apart : a memoir of divorce
Breaking apart : a memoir of divorce
Swallow, Wendy, 1954-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Hyperion, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 293 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HQ834 .S93 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Writing in a style that is both unsentimental and profoundly moving, Swallow traces the arc of her marriage to a complex man ten years her senior. She offers glimpses of her childhood and young adulthood that prove enlightening to the relationship, and talks about her struggle to balance her burgeoning career and newfound confidence as a mother. And she talks about divorce: the hopeful fantasies she concocted while still in her marriage, as well as the harsh realities she faced when she realized the pain divorce inflicts on everyone involvedespecially children. As she candidly documents her experience over the course of many years, Swallow reveals the overwhelming financial and emotional stresses of divorce, but also the joys of independence and renewal. People say marriages break up, writes Swallow, but mine finally broke down. Her journey through divorces rough terrainand the triumphant reconstruction of her life after divorceoffer encouragement and inspiration to anyone struggling with a marriage that is breaking apart.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Large-scale studies of the impact of divorce are essential, but, at least occasionally, we need to see individual trees as well as the forest. This book is the tale of one family: Swallow, a former Washington Post staff writer who now heads the journalism program at American University; her somewhat older husband, a political science Ph.D. employed by the federal government; and their two sons, who were toddlers when the couple separated. This "divorce memoir" is inevitably also a memoir of other things: both partners' families of origin; their romance and marriage; their passionate love for their children; and the boys' awakening awareness of the world around them, first within a troubled marriage and then in an unusual but ultimately nurturing joint-custody arrangement. Many of the feelings and experiences Swallow describes will be familiar to anyone who has been through (or observed) a divorce; others may be unique to this particular family. Swallow tells her story with an affecting mixture of intimacy and objectivity; readers will find it as involving as a good novel. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

This graceful and engrossing memoir of marriage, divorce and rebuilding a life will attract many women readers. Swallow, a former staff writer at the Washington Post, admits that she shouldn't have married Ron, an attractive, volatile intellectual 10 years her senior, because "the person I didn't know very well was that laughing girl with the curly hair and the vulnerable eyes, the one in her mother's wedding dress." She stays married for many reasons: her fantasy of a happy married life; fear of shaming her family; and her need to rescue Ron, whose moods lead to depression and a minor breakdown. A Ph.D. stuck in a government job, jealous of his wife's journalism career, Ron often acts oddly, taking her to a comedy club after she has a miscarriage, for example. Despite their troubles, they have two sons 19 months apart, whom they both adore. When she reaches the breaking point, Swallow assumes that, as the mother, she will get the house, custody of her sons and financial support from her husband. Instead, she is forced to move to a small apartment and live in reduced circumstances. The couple work with a counselor on parenting skills, mediating a divorce that keeps their concern for the children at the forefront. Many readers will warm to Swallow; she is neither angry, self-important nor overly analytical. But some will feel that she's revealed too much about her former husband's emotional problems and too little of his side of the story. (Apr.) Forecast: There is clearly a market for Swallow's story; advertising in the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review will help readers find this engaging book. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As Swallow points out in her introduction, there are very few memoirs about the dissolution of a marriage or the "breaking apart" in divorce recovery literature: "I...wanted to know if others had felt what I was experiencing: the look in the eyes of my friends when I talked about joint custody; the echo of my son's sadness down a telephone line; the loss of a sense of home as I bounced from rental to rental." Swallow, former staff writer at the Washington Post and the journalism director at American University, fills this hole with style and grace. There is no finger-pointing and no glamorizing of divorce as a carefree lifestyle. Instead, Swallow wryly acknowledges that both parties made mistakes and that both parties tried but couldn't fix them. Divorce may look like an easy way out, but the problems it engenders are just as difficult to solve as those that originally marred the marriage. Swallow and her ex-husband's insistence on minimizing the impact of the divorce on their children shines through as an exemplary way of dealing with a no-win situation. Recommended for all public libraries and for most social work collections. Pam Matthews, Gettysburg Coll. Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 3
1 Divorce Fantasyp. 11
2 The Wedding Picturep. 17
3 Navy Bratp. 26
4 Mississippip. 33
5 Ronp. 48
6 Breakdownp. 62
7 Containment Specialistp. 75
8 Mommy Lionp. 81
9 Stealth Wifep. 98
10 Holes in the Heartp. 113
11 Untanglingp. 121
12 Custodyp. 133
13 Breaking Pointp. 147
14 The Telephonep. 156
15 Witches' Brewp. 162
16 The Balcony Scenep. 170
17 Gathering My Powerp. 177
18 Finding My Feetp. 186
19 Obsessionp. 196
20 Identity Crisisp. 208
21 The Envy Warsp. 217
22 In the Shadow of Divorcep. 222
23 Moneyp. 231
24 What I Want in a Manp. 238
25 Dating As a Family Unitp. 250
26 The Monster in the Closetp. 264
27 The Final Breakp. 277
Epiloguep. 291