Saturday, May 7, 2011

Love Shrinks

Author: Sharyn Wolf
Title: Love Shrinks: A Memoir of a Marriage Counselor’s Divorce
Description (source): For twenty years, Sharyn Wolf, a practicing psychotherapist and "relationship expert," has helped revitalize the marriages of countless couples. But while she was being interviewed on Oprah and 48 hours to talk about her nationally bestselling books that instructed millions on how to flirt, find mates, and "stay lovers for life," she was going home every night to a dark secret: a totally failed marriage of her own to a good man she just couldn't leave.

In Love Shrinks, Sharyn tells the mindbending—and yet deeply relatable—story of her (third!) marriage. In anecdotes that range from poignant to horrifying to side-splittingly funny to heart-rending, she explains how it is possible for two good people to make each other totally miserable and yet still be unable to leave. In fifteen years of marriage, she and her husband had sex twice. Despite the fact that Sharyn was a national bestselling self-help author, her husband couldn't bring himself to read a single one of her books. Communication between them had failed so utterly that the simple domestic activity of buying a couch together escalated to disastrous proportions. Yet through it all, they stay together—even though neither one knows why. Sharyn ends each chapter with a touching story of why she could never bear to leave this man who made her so unhappy.

Painted against the backdrop of her psycotherapy practice, real-life illustrative cases of her patients, and the wacky story of career trajectory, Sharyn turns her analytical eye on herself and her husband and deftly depicts a marriage on its long last legs. The result is this beautiful and sad tapestry of a hidden and omnipresent human condition. You will not be able to put her book down. (Amazon)

Review source: Netgalley

Writing style: Wolf is a facile writer and has a knack for writing vignettes that reveal much in a few words. The book was terrifically readable.

Audience: This one stumps me. I read the book because (basically) I wanted the dirt on a bad marriage—you know, like peeking at the carnage from the traffic accident.  I guess the real audience might be women in bad marriages who are afraid to leave the marriage. Not sure.

Major ideas: I wouldn’t really call this an ‘idea’ book. It’s basically a memoir: marriage expert fails at marriage. About half of the book is about her marriage, and the other half is about her therapy practice. She has this notion about therapists having therapists and making a giant “therapy chain” and that makes her happy and secure.

Wrap-up: At the end of every chapter, she tells a story about a reason she stayed with her husband for so long, and frankly, I found myself really liking the guy. The reasons she gives for wanting a divorce: he didn’t read her books, he was messy, he was often late. Wolf was sexually abused as a child, so she entered the marriage with some unresolved issues; this fact tells the reader more about the broken relationship than the stories of spats over furniture. In tale after tale of therapy sessions, the author brings her patients’ stories to bear on her own problems—perhaps this was a way of saying that therapists don’t always have it all together, but it came across more like she couldn’t stop thinking about herself and her problems for even one minute. By the time I finished the book, I was completely convinced that I wouldn’t be able to stay married to someone like this either, and I hope that after the divorce, her husband (who she never gave a name to, even a fictional one) found someone who could love him. The book gets points for the readable train-wreck aspect but loses points for not having one thing useful to teach. 2.5/5

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