To me, this memoir was about honesty. The kind of honesty you owe yourself. The kind of honesty that is hard to endure, but propels us all to better places. It isn’t easy to pick apart your now somewhat obvious faults as you imagine hundreds, thousands (heck, millions) of readers wondering “Rhoda, what on earth were you thinking??”
You see Rhoda stuck it out with a bad guy, a real bad guy. Her husband was bipolar, so he had a fool-proof excuse for nearly any misdeed, that is until he took off with a guy from Gay.com leaving Rhoda with a giant mortgage payment and some seriously wounded pride. It was mesmerizing to hear Rhoda, a brilliant professor and intellectual, try to describe how she let it get to this…how she failed to realize her marriage was broken.
So Rhoda does what makes the most sense and heads back home to live with her Mennonite parents and to heal. She manages to tell her story from the perspective of a wiser survivor, instead of a victim. She admits that there were more than a few times she might’ve known her marriage had headed south. But she also manages to convey, quite eloquently, that never, ever makes it hurt any less.
To top it off, her writing is quite incredible.
“And also: will somebody please tell me why husbands never seem to ditch their wives until the wives develop a varicose vein the size of a Roman aqueduct? It’s like they’re waiting for the vein. If our husbands must leave us for guys named Bob, why can’t they do it pre-vain, while we are young and gorgeous?”
“I think maybe I’d still nod and smile and have lunch with him. I think maybe I’d still go to the Noam Chomsky documentary later that evening. And maybe I’d even marry him a couple of weeks later. Is it ever really a waste of time to love someone, truly and deeply, with everything you have?”
About her brother teaching her racquetball when they were younger:
“He was a brilliant instructor, perhaps the best I’ve ever had. Over my many years in school I’ve been exposed to some wonderful mentors, intellectuals at the top of their game, professors and Pulitzer Prize winners who challenged me. But Caleb would be the only one to call fourth an excited faith in my ability. He didn’t make me think I was a better player than I was. He made me love the player that I already was. What a gift that was.”
re: her sister’s husband
“With my usual extravagance, I decided within ten minutes that this man really cherished her, and that he would have loved her even if toads jumped out of her mouth, like the Grimms’ fairy tale.”