Nominated for the VanCity Book Prize 2001
I have always been loved by men. Even now, in the middle of middle age, I have found love again. It's the again of love that defines my life, the practice of serial monogamy. And yet the very phrase hints of murder – murder of the heart.
So begins Elizabeth Simpson's intimate memoir of her relationships with four men – her father and three husbands – over five decades. Each relationship coloured her life with distinct joys, sorrows, and lessons, and each was influenced by the expectations and sexual politics of the times. For those who travelled the same path, especially women in their forties and fifties, this poignant, often gently humorous work resonates with familiarity and truth.
In the fifties Simpson came of age on the prairies within the secure embrace of a close-knit family, a world in which the mutual dedication of her parents and all the messages of home-economics classes led her to expect the same future: a devoted husband and many children. In the sixties she worked to put her first husband – strong, silent, and traditional – through university, then failed to become pregnant when his career was finally launched. In the seventies and eighties she was swept away by a man who was flamboyantly eager to have children with her but equally eager to indulge in sexual infatuations outside the marriage. In the nineties she abandoned the dream and expectation of motherhood and instead confronted a life-threatening illness. Unexpectedly she found her deepest joy in a third marriage and in the satisfaction of a late-blooming career and sanity-saving friendships.
One Man at a Time captures the often extraordinary events of an "ordinary" woman's life – indeed many women's lives – with insight and perception: a girl's-eye view of a father's infatuation with his wife; the attempt to get pregnant with the best science available thirty years ago; what to wear when confronting a husband's mistress. Just as Bonnie Burnard conjured a compelling tale from common experience in A Good House, Elizabeth Simpson illuminates the lives of a generation of women in this non-fiction narrative filled with wisdom, forgiveness, and honesty.