Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story

Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story

3.7 56
by Isabel Gillies
     
 

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Isabel Gillies had a wonderful life -- a handsome, intelligent, loving husband; two glorious toddlers; a beautiful house; the time and place to express all her ebullience and affection and optimism. Suddenly, that life was over. Her husband, Josiah, announced that he was leaving her and their two young sons.

When Josiah took a teaching job at a Midwestern college

Overview

Isabel Gillies had a wonderful life -- a handsome, intelligent, loving husband; two glorious toddlers; a beautiful house; the time and place to express all her ebullience and affection and optimism. Suddenly, that life was over. Her husband, Josiah, announced that he was leaving her and their two young sons.

When Josiah took a teaching job at a Midwestern college, Isabel and their sons moved with him from New York City to Ohio, where Isabel taught acting, threw herself into the college community, and delighted in the less-scheduled lives of toddlers raised away from the city. But within a few months, the marriage was over. The life Isabel had made crumbled. "Happens every day," said a friend.

Far from a self-pitying diatribe, Happens Every Day reads like an intimate conversation between friends. Gillies has written a dizzyingly candid, compulsively readable, ultimately redemptive story about love, marriage, family, heartbreak, and the unexpected turns of a life. On the one hand, reading this book is like watching a train wreck. On the other hand, as Gillies herself says, it is about trying to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness, and loving your life even if it has slipped away. Hers is a remarkable new voice -- instinctive, funny, and irresistible.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gillies left her recurring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to follow her poet-professor husband to Oberlin, Ohio, when he got a tenure-track position in the English department. She threw herself into caring for her two sons, renovating an old house and teaching drama part-time—but her idyllic life was shattered when her husband decided he didn't want to be married anymore—or at least, not married to Gillies. (He subsequently wed a fellow professor.) Gillies brings both humor and sorrow to the narration. Despite a tendency to trail off at the end of sentences, which leaves listeners straining to hear the completion of a thought, she gives a brave performance that will have her audience cheering as she pluckily reassembles the pieces of her broken life. A Scribner hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 23). (Mar.)
Library Journal

Every day, lovingly planned lives are ripped from unsuspecting partners and spouses by carelessness or by design. It's a story that can be told in a thousand different ways. Gillies's chronicle of her family's move to a small college town for the benefit of her husband's career charms readers before breaking their hearts when said husband leaves. By turns enlightening, funny, and gut-wrenching, this is a great read about one of the great truths of life: you can't control what happens to you; you can only control how you react. Actress Gillies (Detective Stabler's wife on Law and Order) has created an evenhanded account of a horribly difficult time in her life, which she has probed for meaning and mined for a great story. In terms of compelling reading, Happens Every Day is the nonfiction equivalent of Nora Ephron's Heartburn. A tearjerker with a bittersweet yet happy ending, this memoir is highly recommended for all libraries, especially for popular collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/1/08.]
—Audrey Snowden

Kirkus Reviews
The author's debut memoir chronicles how her storybook marriage went belly up. Best known for her recurring role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Gillies displays her flair for drama in print. She brings to life the town of Oberlin, Ohio, complete with organic market, eccentric academics and insanely quaint coffee shops. The author also manages to squeeze multiple cliffhangers out of one central incident: her husband Josiah, a poetry professor at Oberlin College, leaving her for a colleague named Sylvia. The title is drawn from a conversation in which Gillies asked Sylvia how her husband could leave their two children. "Happens every day," the Other Woman replied. Although readers know from the beginning that Josiah eventually moved in with Sylvia, it's unclear at the time of this exchange if anything had happened between the two. It's also unclear whether the author was trying to provoke Sylvia into an admission with this naive remark or was just plain clueless. It doesn't help Gillies' credibility that she's prone to sentences like, "I hate to say that, and it's only a theory, but I think it's true." As to whether or not she actually had a perfect marriage whose only problem was the woman who broke it up, readers will draw their own conclusions. Excruciating scenes-such as the one in which Josiah forces Gillies to apologize for yelling at Sylvia-suggest that there was more going on here than the author cares to tell-or perhaps ever realized. Untidy but readable-a made-for-TV movie ready for casting. Author appearances in New York metro area and Maine. Agent: Bill Clegg/William Morris Agency
From the Publisher
"Fans of Eat, Pray, Love will devour this book."
— John Searles, MSNBC.com

“A memoir so raw you feel like it’s your best friend telling you her story.”
Glamour, “Must-Read”

“A smart, rueful memoir of love, betrayal and survival.”
O, the Oprah magazine

“You gobble up [Happens Every Day], rooting for the engaging Gillies… A guilty pleasure for readers."
USA Today

“I couldn’t help but admire her bravery in exposing the dark side of her seemingly perfect life in such a good-humored, self-effacing way…. You feel nothing but deepest sympathy.”
Elle

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743582902
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
03/24/2009
Edition description:
Unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hours
Pages:
261
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.80(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

1

One late August afternoon in our new house in Oberlin, Ohio, my husband, Josiah, took it upon himself to wallpaper the bathroom with pictures of our family. Over the years, we had collected an enormous number of framed pictures. Some were generations old and really should be called photographs; like the one of Josiah's grandfather, a Daniel Day-Lewis-like, strong-looking man, sitting in profile on a porch, casually surrounded by all his family, including my father-in-law, Sherman, at age ten. I always thought that picture would have been a good album cover for a southern rock band like Lynyrd Skynyrd. There was one of my great-grandmothers looking beautiful, rich, and Bostonian on her wedding day in 1913. There was a picture of my mother sitting on stairs at Sarah Lawrence College in Jackie O sunglasses and pigtails. Numerous black-and-white pictures of various family dogs.

My grandparents on my mother's side always had somewhere between two and six black labs around at any given time. There were also two St. Bernards, one named McKinley and the one before that, Matterhorn. They lived in Croton, New York, on the Hudson River, on Quaker Ridge Road and belonged to that John Cheever group of eccentric intellectuals that had a little extra money, mostly from prior generations, and a lot of time on their hands. My grandparents and John Cheever used to write letters to each other in the voices of their Labradors. Seriously. My grandfather had the mother, Sadie ("one of the great Labradors," he would say in his Brahmin accent), and Mr. Cheever had the daughter, Cassiopeia. Dogs are important in my family. But in addition to dogs my grandparents also had a raccoon, Conney, who would sit on one's shoulder during drinks and beg for scotch-coated ice cubes; a toucan; a sheep named Elizabeth; and, for a short time, two lion cubs. It sounds like they were vets or they lived on a farm, or they were nuts, but really they just loved animals and birds. The house that my mother grew up in was big and white with lots of lawn. They had a mimeograph in the living room that my grandmother Mimi knew how to operate and, as a family, they created The Quaker Ridge Bugle, which was later printed as a little local paper. My grandmother was an artist. She mainly painted and drew birds. My brother Andrew and I now have them on our walls. I remember her as very beautiful but thin. She wore long braids and black socks with sandals. She and my grandfather, who was a photographer among other things, lived in Guatemala later in their life, so I remember her shrouded in lots of brightly colored striped ponchos. In her day, though, she looked like a fey Katharine Hepburn. Like my grandfather, she was from a nice old American family. She was an odd bird. She was an intellectual, a good writer of letters, and also was probably one of the first anorexics. She rebelled against her aristocratic, proper upbringing as much as she could by becoming an artist and leading a somewhat alternative life filled with books and chaos. She spent many hours in her studio alone, away from her children, whom she didn't really know what to do with. My mother, the eldest, ended up running the show a bit, which is probably why she is such an organizational dynamo now. "It sounds a little looney, and it was," my mother says.

Among the pictures Josiah hung on the bathroom wall was one of my father shaking hands at an Upper West Side street fair when he ran for New York City Council in 1977. He didn't win the election, but my memory of that is not as strong as my memory of his photograph plastered on the front of the Eighty-sixth...

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Meet the Author

Isabel Gillies, known for her television role as Detective Stabler’s wife on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and for her cinematic debut in the film Metropolitan, graduated from New York University with a BFA in film. She lives in Manhattan with her second husband, her two sons, and her stepdaughter.

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Happens Every Day 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
geekymcbooklover More than 1 year ago
You feel like an intruder to one of the most intimate parts of a person's life: their divorce. Its touching in the way that the author can admit that she had a part in the dissolving of her marriage. She doesn't demonize the man who left her and their sons. She just tells it like she experienced it. Honest and beautiful.
Philly13 More than 1 year ago
This book captured my attention from the very first page. It is a riveting story that you feel guilty enjoying so much. I literally finished this book in 24 hours.
Karen-LeBlanc More than 1 year ago
Isabel Gillies chronicles in absorbing detail the unraveling of her "perfect" marriage and life. As she struggles to reconcile the idea of her perfect life to the reality of it, she endures many soul crushing moments but soldiers on at times bravely and at other times with a blind eye to the reality of her situation. The title of the book says it all. Infidelity and divorce happen everyday but when it happens to you, it is a lonely, desperate, isolating experience. Isabel nails the experience dead on.
Patricia57PH More than 1 year ago
at the end I discovered you actually are friends now. What a bust I read this whole book where I too started to dislike the women who doesn't know how to respect another women's family...then after reading without putting down, only to find at the end you and "Sylvia" are best buddies felt like somewhat had just SLAPPED me...I am tearing that page out before I lend it to my friends....
susankaye More than 1 year ago
Isabel says in the beginning "I am not a writer...but I have been told I write good emails". That sets the tone for this warm compelling book....the story unfolds like shared confidences between friends over a glass of wine. It is based on her life experience....great marriage, beautiful home, wonderful husband, good friends. Opps......turns out the husband has the attention span of a gnat and falls in love with Isabels "friend" in the blink of an eye. He and the "friend" both lie and drive her batty...the divorce is all her fault he would have her believe. Liar Liar. Anyone who has been divorced, been left by a faithless man,is going thru a divorce or is a single mother can totally relate to her story. The book is not all pain, it is about moving on even when you just want to crawl up into a ball and fade away. Her family, friends and beautiful boys get her through. Isabels words are so descriptive.....she sets the stage well. For an untrained writer the story is lively, interesting and well paced. Whoever wrote the "OMG he left her" review is obviously either "the other woman" type, a borderline personality, or really young with no life experience. This is a warm witty book...I read it in one sitting and have recommended it to both my siters and my 3 best friends.
SuzeJones58 More than 1 year ago
My reaction... Insightful, well-written, but still a very easy read. A lot of honesty - the kind that comes with personal growth. Read it. I recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
xine78 More than 1 year ago
I just bought this without really looking, so I didn't realize it was a memoir until a couple pages in. While some say her writing style is disjointed, I loved it because she writes how I think. So it made me feel like I was just talking to a friend and hearing about her situation.
Xine13 More than 1 year ago
I stumbled upon this book by getting the advertisement as a book mark from Barnes and Noble. I bought and totally identified with it, since I was going through similar situations of my own. The story is told like you're listening to a friend. I really connected with this book. Give it a shot. I can't wait to read her new book now as well! christine
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Listened via audiobook on my way to and from work. Thank goodness I was in the car by myself because like a horror movie I was talking to Isabel throughout the book like she was a girlfriend on the phone in the middle of an intense friend to friend therapy session. An amazing story, true to the bone, filled with heartache and triumph. It was so great to start knowing that disaster was going to lurk around the corner, but to also hear the good times that were once cherished by this woman. She tried so hard to hold him close and keep things from unraveling. Now I know this is a true story, so it is hard to suggest the author to take the story in a different direction or to change things about the characters, because in the end it really happened to this family. BUT if I was her friend I would have encouraged her to do a little more confronting of the other woman, it was obvious that this relationship was the cause of the distance between them. A book that I have literally passed onto my mom and would encourage everyone to both read or listen to this great story. Read by Isabel Gillies herself gave me the sense of feeling every emotion to the core.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SophiaGirl, I don't necessarily disagree with your overall impression of the book, but I do disagree with the following: When she meet her husband he was married, so why would any of this be a shock to her...You'd think women would read her story and learn something, the "warning signs", like he left his first wife for you!" You have your facts wrong. "Josiah" (apparently not his real name) did leave his first wife for another woman, but it was not Isabel. He was already divorced when he and Isabel reconnected. I believe, but am not certain, that he was not still seeing this other woman by then, although Isabel does state that the woman persisted in intruding into their lives well into their own marriage and that "Josiah" did not understand why this made her uncomfortable. (Hello? That might also have been one of those warning signs you mentioned.) I found this book slow and repetitive, and by the end, I was impatient for it to be over. I was surprised and disappointed to discover that the entire book but for the last few pages/minutes (I am listening to the audio version) is about every little detail leading up to the divorce and almost nothing on how she moved on from there. I would have found it more interesting and inspiring had she spent more time on the aftermath and what helped get her through the worst of it. I also agree with another poster that I suspect that there may have been issues she is either unwilling to put into print (and/or perhaps still has not admitted to herself), either about her marriage or about "Josiah" and his treatment of her. That being said, I admire her decision not to be bitter and angry at a man who blindsided her and left her for another woman, all the while refusing to admit his reasons to her or make an honest effort to resolve their issues. I could not have been so forgiving in her place.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book! I bought it to read over a two week vacation, thinking it would last me during the break...I ended up reading it all in 2 days. I literally couldn't put it down. Gillies is a great writer and her book is full of emotion, honesty, love, and pain. I would recommend this for anyone who likes chick lit or for any woman going through a divorce (or for anyone thinking of being the "other woman").
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