Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story

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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 ...

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Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story

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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.

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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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440728242
  • Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
  • Publication date: 6/10/2009
  • Format: CD

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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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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 56 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(21)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 56 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 14, 2009

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    I Also Recommend:

    Sad and touching but rewarding to read

    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.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2009

    Completely Riveting!

    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.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2009

    Needs Order

    I couldn't finish this book becuase the writing was all over the place, not even in a creative way. I am very happy with my husband we have been together for 11 years and i was hoping this book might shed light on things not to do, but it turns out the guy is just scum and pretty much did the same thing to his first wife. She should have seen that red flag and ran before having kids with him. Not intersting at all, just sad on many accounts

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Gut Wrenching Depiction of the Demise of a Marriage

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2009

    Great ideas, bad delivery

    I heard an interview on NPR and thought this would be a good read. After the first few pages I realized the writer had no skills coordinating thoughts, some paragraphs were over a page long! She begins with a brief history of her impressive family which fails to bear any relavence on her current situation. She flip flops all over the place after that. Her style shows potential for a writer, her editor/advisor did her no justice assisting in idea organization.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2009

    Okay I didn't like "Sylvia"..then.....

    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....

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    I loved this book!

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2009

    A Compelling Read

    Reading Isabel's book is like having a cup of coffee with your best friend. Isabel takes you on her journey with pathos and wit. An easy read that will evoke many emotions.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    OMG, the guy dumped her

    If you like 'dissing my kids' father in public because he cheated on me just like he did to his first wife' types of literature, this book is a quick, easy read. Brought the old saying about a 'woman scorned' to mind. Occasional gratuitous use of F-word that may/may not make it into the final version. Wouldn't bother reading it again and am thankful the copy I read was free. <BR/><BR/>I liked the character she played on TV.

    2 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2009

    Read Straight Through

    Am currently in a horrendous divorce with a man who left me because he prefers men and is still lying about it. I could relate to Isabel's feeling crazy and wanting to know the truth. I appreciated her truthfulness in revealing the things she did such as confronting other people about what was going on with her husband. The entire book made sense to me and I could relate to everything she wrote and understood why she included it in her story. Her ex is a scum for what he put her through by not telling the truth. He is lucky she forgave him. I will not forgive my husband for the long list of lies he told, the 3 years he has put me though hell and the devastating effect it has had on my children who are now teenagers and old enough to understand. We still are not even divorced.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2009

    Thank you...

    I am so thankful that such a raw and emotional story was laid out on the table. With divorce comes shame,self-doubt and a huge amount of grief that it so difficult to express. Some may feel that the beginning of the book was all over the place...run on paragraphs and thoughts...but she wrote the story exactly how her life felt at the time. Divorce creates a mess of thoughts and run on paragraphs. Divorce and infidelity can make your feel, look, seem and act crazy. I am thankful because in a sense she told my story as well. After reading this book I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I think it took a lot of courage to share this story.
    Thank you.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 6, 2009

    A little boring

    I was drawn to this book as I also went through a divorce where my husband had an affair and left me for another woman. I also was like her in the fact that I didn't want to let go of my husband and just couldn't believe that he was willing to throw a life together away for another woman. But the story was a little boring even though I could relate to her feelings and what she went through. I will read books again if I really enjoy them. This one I would not read again or recommend.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A shocking betrayal

    I have read so many memoirs but this one really got to me. To be so in love with your husband, to be at the start of your marriage and family life and have your whole world simply collapse. It was terrifying to witness. I actually read my husbands emails with sweaty palms (he's clean)! It is disturbing to think that a man you love and trust and have recently made babies with can just fall in love with someone else and just like that it's all gone. Truly a cautionary tale.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2009

    An Amazingly honest view into a marriage

    This is a can't put down read- Isable Gillies takes you into an intimate look at the break down of a marriage. This is an amazingly insightful view into what really happens behind closed doors. it will take your breath away.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Amazing...

    The first page I was debating whether or not to read this book. Then after the first chapter I was addicted, finished in about 3 days. It was great to hear her story and I defintely was NOT expecting it to be such a great book. BUY THIS!!!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2009

    Easy Read but somewhat disturbing to me personally

    I bought the book on a whim when I read what it was about and it was based in Ohio (near where I live). I have been through the first bad marriage with indiscretions..and happily into my 2nd and final marriage. For some reason while it was an easy read, it actually disturbed me in the way she comes across as knowing what is up and not dealing with it. While I believe the husband is at fault not the woman (Sylvia) I think I would have had to say something sooner and while I wouldn't waste my time being angry and getting revenge (publishing a book took care of that) I also wouldn't waste my time being "friends", necessary acquaintances is necessary because of the kids, but the term friend wouldn't cross my lips.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2009

    A REAL PAGE TURNER

    Reading Isabel's book is like sharing a cup of coffee with her. She tells you her innermost feelings and makes lemonade out of lemons. Her book is an inspiration to anyone who has felt in dispair after a partner leaving. A wonderful, easy read! I loved this book!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    A compelling one night read.

    This book was hard to put down. Some of the novice writer elements were mildly annoying, but overall, the conversational tone and pace were excellent and absorbing. I just could not stop reading it. Ms. Gillies has a good eye for her own foibles, life's meaningful small details and her marriage's minor pre-breakup strains, and she affectingly describes her humbling efforts to keep it all together. While I could not shake my own feeling of being pissed off at her pathetic 'friend' and her uncommunicative husband, and my worry that she lowered herself to bear the brunt of the whole thing, I am glad for her that she feels at peace with their complicated relationship today. She is a better person than I fear I'd be.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Best book I've read in a while

    I started reading this book and couldn't put it down. I also couldn't stop talking about it with my friends and family. Gillies's writing is fabulous. She is thoughtful and honest - often putting herself on the line. This is one of the best books I've read in a while. Don't miss it!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2012

    My reaction... Insightful, well-written, but still a very easy r

    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.

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