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In Spite of Everything: A Memoirby Susan Gregory Thomas
Synopses & Reviews
“For most of my generation—Generation X—there is only one question: ‘When did your parents split?’ Our lives have been framed by the answer. Ask us. We remember everything.”
In this powerful, poignant, and often laugh-out-loud-funny memoir, Susan Gregory Thomas reflects on that life-defining question and its answer through a lens imprinted by memory and sharpened by time.
Raised in Berkeley, Thomas grew up in a seemingly stable household. But when the family moved east when she was twelve, her father, a charming alcoholic, ran off with his secretary, and her mother collapsed. Thomas and her younger brother joined the ubiquitous flocks of 1980s latchkey kids: collateral damage in their parents’ wars, sustaining private injuries they would try to self-treat throughout adolescence and adulthood.
When Thomas became a wife and mother in her early thirties, she made a fierce promise: She would never let her own children know the scorched earth of divorce. It was a vow shared by many of her peers, who, in reaction to the divorces of the 1970s and ’80s, sought out marriages based on deeper friendships and more genuine partnerships than those of previous generations. So Thomas was stunned when, after sixteen years with the man she considered her best friend, she found her marriage coming to an end. Not only did the divorce reopen all the old wounds, but she would now have to contend with the aftershocks affecting her two young daughters.
In Spite of Everything is an astounding, bright, and brilliantly told account of a mother’s fight to protect her children’s world and to make sense of her own troubled past—and the culture of divorce in which she and Generation X were raised. Interwoven with original, hilarious insights on divorce and parenthood, Thomas’s eye-opening, gut-wrenching, ultimately optimistic story holds a mirror up to a whole generation.
"For Thomas (Buy, Buy Baby) — and scores of other Gen-Xers, she posits — life's defining question wasn't 'where were you when Kennedy got shot?' but 'when did your parents split up?' Divorce and its ripple effect shape this keenly felt memoir as Thomas recounts a childhood cleaved in half by her parents' ugly separation and her shock as her own seemingly solid marriage ends. Raised in Berkeley and Philadelphia by her academic mother and a father whose dependence on alcohol made him either a jovial prankster or a sullen drunk, Thomas turned to punk rock, drugs, and alcohol when her parents split when she was 13. After graduating from Columbia, she landed a fact-checker job at PC Magazine in 1991, where she met her husband, Cal. It seemed almost too perfect. Gen-Xers weren't supposed to fall head over heels in love: this was the latchkey generation fueled by rejection, neuroses, and benign neglect. But Cal and Thomas married and had two girls in Brooklyn, even as their marriage rotted away, and they bitterly divorced after 16 years. As much a meditation on her own life as it is an examination of Gen-Xers and what it means to find your way when, as she quotes the words of Nirvana, 'all alone is all we are,'Thomas's voice is clear even when darkness surrounds her. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Susan Gregory Thomas is a journalist and the author of Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds. Formerly a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and co-host of public television’s Digital Duo, she has also written for Time, The Washington Post, and Glamour, among others. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.
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