In Spite of Everything
By Susan Gregory Thomas
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400068821, 240pp.)
Publication Date: July 12, 2011
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“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.
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.
“If you've been through the pain of a divorce or watched one at close range, you may recognize emotions here that you've never seen written down anywhere else….Thomas' deeply felt prose and pitilessly intelligent self-analysis raise her story to something on the order of a generational anthem (which, as Gen X enters middle age, it sorely needs).”
“By turns hilarious and heartbreaking….As profound as it is rollickingly funny….What sets Susan Gregory Thomas’ In Spite of Everything apart from other tales of charred families is the propulsive force of her writing, and her effort to connect her parents’ divorce, and later her own, to a larger generational narrative….If you’ve ever thought about getting married, or wondered about how best to raise children, real or hypothetical, or had parents, put In Spite of Everything on your list.”
“A lively narrative…[sprinkled] with broadening references to literature, religion, pop culture, and statistics….Let’s face it: It’s fascinating to watch a marriage unravel….Happily for us, [Thomas’s] pain and missteps, and the exploration and enlightenment they provoke, make for a page-turning saga.”
“Razor-sharp….If Generation X is not unique in suffering; its particular suffering is unique, and Thomas provides an insightful, well-researched, sometimes funny and often harrowing view of it.”
--San Francisco Chronicle
“Raw and courageous....A memoir that speaks intimately, and with honesty, for an entire generation that needed to be heard.”
“Raw, funny, searingly honest and electrifyingly intelligent . . . As a field guide to the beat-up, busted heart of Generation X, it’s damn near definitive. Thomas solves the mystery of her devastating divorce—and the emotional catastrophe that defines a generation.”—Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians
“This smart and emotionally mighty memoir will show you how every family of divorce is unhappy in ways we can all relate to, learn from, cry about, and (after reading such a great book) transcend. Sad and funny, In Spite of Everything is the first book to dissect, with scientific definitiveness, the Busted-Marriage Generation. It also tells a very moving personal story with real beauty.”—Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life
“At once a literate and poignant memoir and incisive journalistic illumination of the cult of domestic consumption, In Spite of Everything is a remarkable and moving study of an American generation's uneasy search for home.”—Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned
“Honest, riveting and illuminating . . . An indelible portrait, not only of a family, but of an entire generation shaped by loneliness. Breathtakingly beautiful from start to finish.”—Lisa Dierbeck, author of One Pill Makes You Smaller
“This book is brave, startling, profoundly moving, and I could not put it down.”—Joanna Hershon, author of Swimming
“In In Spite of Everything, Susan Gregory Thomas goes way beyond American pop culture’s cute, run-of-the-mill bromides about marriage and parenting and gives us a work that's shot through with a stark and clarifying light of honesty. It is an inspiring book—and an often uproariously funny one, too. In Spite of Everything establishes Susan Gregory Thomas as one of the most important new voices in American writing.”—Jeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World
“Engrossing . . . A deeply moving and personal tale of divorce, love, motherhood, and what makes us who we are.”—Marian Fontana, author of A Widow’s Walk
“Harrowing, hilarious, and profoundly wise . . . [In Spite of Everything] is the work of a supreme talent and an emotional daredevil, a woman courageous enough to reveal every scar that lines her heart.”—Brendan I. Koerner, author of Now the Hell Will Start
“As a memoir, In Spite of Everything is both raw and smart; as a generational analysis, it is spot on—culturally, economically and psychologically. This is an engaging and fast-paced memoir . . . and a generational portrait for those who refuse to be categorized.”—Lisa Chamberlain, author of Slackonomics
“In Spite of Everything is a profound emotional history of the last forty years. Susan Gregory Thomas is the expert on Generation X’s emotional fallout. All recovering latchkey kids should read this book.”—Ada Calhoun, author of Instinctive Parenting