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With insight and daring, Susan chronicles her six-month-long journey back down a road strewn with romantic regret....
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With insight and daring, Susan chronicles her six-month-long journey back down a road strewn with romantic regret. Although for years she'd blamed her boyfriends for their flagrant infidelity, ludicrous faults, and immature foibles, to her shock she can now suddenly pinpoint the exact moment where she herself screwed up each relationship.
A successful freelance writer living in Manhattan, Susan Shapiro was in the midst of a midlife crisis she called her "no-book-no-baby summer." Married for five years to Aaron, a workaholic TV comedy writer always on the road, she was beginning to wonder if she'd remain book- and babyless forever. Then the phone rang, and it was Brad, a college flame who'd become a Harvard scientist with a book coming out. Susan offers to interview him, and she winds up launching into all the intense, invasive questions she'd always wanted to ask him. To her surprise, he answers them! This ignites a spark that sends her on a cross-country jaunt back through her lust-littered past.
While Brad is still single, she finds that Heartbreaks Number Two, Three, and Four are not. George, a theater professor, and Richard, a music biographer, are happily married with children. Tom, a handsome blond lawyer in L.A., is getting divorced. Just as it's becoming easy to worm her way back into her exes' goodgraces, she crashes head-on with David, a wry Canadian root canal specialist. ("It's the equivalent of what you did to me emotionally," she tells him.) She then gut-wrenchingly relives the agony of splitting up with her first love all over again. Yet somewhere between the tantalizing what-ifs and bittersweet might-have-beens, she finds what she's been searching for all along.
Part relationship manifesto, part confessional, and part valentine to the males in her life she adores, Five Men Who Broke My Heart is for anyone who has ever wondered what became of their first love. Or second, third, fourth, or fifth...
Susan Shapiro has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Village Voice, Salon.com, Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Jane.
1. Brad's call sparks a host of reactions in Susan–professional insecurity, nostalgia for the past, and a rekindled attraction. How does the realityof Brad measure up to her memories of him? What does their reunion indicate about the nature of a "good match?"
2. Susan's friendship with Claire is a constant throughout the memoir; her shoes almost serve as bookends around the first and last chapters. Are the traits of a lasting friendship the same as those for a lasting romance? Is it realistic to expect husbands to respond like best friends?
3. Was George, the theater professor, a suitable bridge between Brad and marriage? Or did George only reduce the likelihood that Susan would commit to Aaron?
4. Tom, the Robert Redford of Susan's campus, was one of the few suitors her family liked. Are relatives good barometers of matchmaking? Did cross-country distance enhance or defeat Susan's relationship with Tom?
5. Chapter Five ends with several philosophical quotes about love, including Aaron's assertion that "you marry your dark side" and Iris Murdoch proposing that "being married is the best possible way of being alone." Susan also wonders whether her self-sufficiency made her attractive to Aaron. Do you agree with the assertions in those two quotes?
6. What did Richard and his dog teach Susan when she lived with them? Had Richard become more honest by the time they reunited?
7. David writes that Susan viewed him as "just another commodity to be dealt with" and sends a stinging assessment of her attitude toward men. To what do you attribute his perception? Is it ever possible to uncover the facts of a love story?
8. Which of Susan's five ex-boyfriends is the most appealing to you?
9. In the initial portions of Five Men Who Broke My Heart, Susan feels that her life is mediocre compared to that of her siblings and friends. What measure of personal achievement–parental, professional, financial, or otherwise–bears the most significance in your family or community?
10. How does Claire's romantic history compare to Susan's? What do you think might account for the differences and similarities?
11. Discuss the presence of New York as a backdrop in Susan's adult life. What makes it the right place for her now? What is it like for her to journey home? Are these contrasting landscapes significant in terms of how her life unfolded?
12. How would you characterize the storytelling voice of this memoir: humorous, tragic, or something else altogether? What devices as a reporter and book reviewer served Susan well in crafting Five Men Who Broke My Heart? If the book weren't identified as a memoir, would you have called it a novel?
13. Do Susan's five exes reflect any sort of evolution in terms of her emotional growth?
14. If her family applied its penchant for diagnosis to Susan's love life, what terminology would they probably use? What would be the prognosis?
15. Did the men in Susan's family influence her expectations of men later in life? Do Susan and her mother share any common approaches to being a wife?
16. If you were to produce a love chart like the one provided in Chapter Fifteen, what would it look like? Would you be able to construct one from memory, or would interviews and fact-checking be necessary?
17. Aaron and Susan are both professional wordsmiths, but they work in quite different aspects of the industry. What do their varied audiences and attitudes toward work reflect about their personalities?
18. The memoir concludes with several powerful images, including the birthday gift that induces Susan to become more technologically independent, and the visit that makes her realize her aging parents are becoming less independent. What snapshot of love is shared in these passages?
19. The therapist Dr. G. tells Susan: "Love doesn't make you happy. Make yourself happy." Why is this the most important advice of the book?
20. Can you find similarities in Susan's connections with her family and her connections to each of the five men? Have the loves in your life recreated relationships with any of your relatives?
21. With each of the five men, Susan is surprised to discover places she screwed up in each relationship. Can you pinpoint what her mistakes were? In breakups, why is it more interesting and important to be self-critical than to play victim?
22. Susan didn't marry Aaron until she was thirty-five, the age that the poet Rilke recommended writers wed. What are the benefits of waiting to marry?
Posted February 28, 2007
Posted June 9, 2004
Whew. I JUST COULDN'T PUT THE BOOK DOWN! Five Men Who Broke My Heart is a memoir written by Susan Shapiro about her former loves. Susan sets out to find out what went wrong in each relationship and to somehow find the final 'closure.' Her writing doesn't let you go, you're constantly hooked, page by page to the very end. I finished this in one day and believe me, it was worth reading through the night and being very tired the next morning at work. The characters are so well drawn that you cannot help but care about all of them - even the jerky ones! Guys, I know I'm a chick myself but this is a good book for guys to read - it's not entirely chick lit.
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Posted January 14, 2005
This book could have been a lot better if the main character wasn't so self-involved and self-destructive to a point where it was hard to enjoy her. She spends a good majority of the book moping and feeling sorry forself and as the reader all you want to shake her and say 'of course all of these men broke you're heart, your needy and pathetic'. Instead of a book describing one woman's adventures in love and hearbreak, it accurately describes one women's inability to focus on anyone other than herself enough for more than a few moments.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 3, 2004
This one is truly for ANYONE who has ever lived, loved and cried over a relationship. The concept of 'interviewing' ex-lovers to find out what had become of them and just maybe do a bit of revisionist thinking was certainly intriguing. I have a busy schedule, but devoured this one in two evenings and as I read, it made me recall good and bad relationships along the way. I could relate to much of the book, and I was a bit envious of Susan Shapiro's journey through the past. (I was also remembering with more than a little envy the single life). In the end, though, when I finished the book, I was grateful for the life I've chosen with my husband and little boys. All in all, a humorous read that supplied me with a trip down memory lane!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 13, 2004
I found this book to be sadly funny. I felt, myself at times, almost feeling guilty for spying on the author's pain. Thank God, she writes with so much humor and frankness. She openly invites you to laugh at her foibles along her path to self revelation. Thoroughly entertaining!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 5, 2004
I thought this was a great book. I loved that Susan Shapiro was so honest with the detail of her writing. I also enjoyed how blunt, and personable her writing was. This is a very good book. Susan Shapiro style of writing pulled me in. I did not want to put this book down. I would recommend this book, and I have. The only qualm I have with the book was the ending. I did not care for it. We went on this journey through Susan¿s, past, and present, and I was expecting some closure. When I was reading the last page, I did note realize that this was the last page; I turned it looking for more, which there wasn¿t. Please don't get me wrong. I liked that she included her and her fathers relationship, and what she came to understand, it just ended on an odd note. I would recommend this book, even with the ending. It¿s a witty, smart, sexy, novel, by a very modern woman. This book is a good example of courageous women, leaving her small town to take on the big city, but underneath it all, her heart is in her Michigan home town! What a good read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 4, 2011
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Posted August 11, 2010
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