‘Happens Every Day’ covers familiar territory in a fresh way

“When people describe a room spinning after something unthinkable happens, like the death of a parent or news you have lost your job, it’s because you have lost the context of your life and your eyes literally are looking for things to ground you, to remind you that you are still in your life. The room started spinning, but my eyes found the side of the counter. … I held on to the counter and felt the groove under my hand, reminding me that we had built this house. We had chosen colors and fixtures and a life and that was more, must more than this blip with Sylvia.”

As author Isabel Gillies describes discovering her husband is having an affair with a professor colleague, she does a masterful job of turning clichés like “the room was spinning” into something new and descriptive and meaningful.

In her book “Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True” Story,” Gillies recounts how the love of her life and father of her two toddlers fell out of love with her and left her. The story revolves primarily around four months in 2005 when her marriage literally slips through her fingers. One reviewer describes Gillies’ breezy conversational style like the reader is her best friend, and she’s answering the happy hour question, “So, tell me what happened.” Lots of candid details here for the reader to soak in but like the title says, it happens every day. There’s nothing too special about this infidelity or divorce.

I picked up her book because I’m powering through memoirs that are like mine. I already read Julie Metz’s “Perfection” (and reviewed it in my other blog) but you might be surprised how many women have written accounts of marriages to cads. Perhaps most astonishing after reading Gillies’ story is that she says in her epilogue that the other woman — who eventually married her ex-husband — is “a thoughtful and kind stepmother, and it’s funny, I like her now very much, in the same way I did when we first met.”

Wow. If that isn’t being the bigger person, I don’t know what is. On the other hand, the book was a New York Times bestseller so maybe she who laughs last, laughs loudest.

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