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.)
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.]
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.”
Read an Excerpt
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...