I don't think I'd normally ever choose to read a book about someone's divorce – and I very much doubt I'll ever read another one. But I was captivated by Happens Every Day, Isabel Gillies' story of how Josiah, her poetry-teaching husband (and the father of her two boys), abruptly walked out of their seemingly happy marriage.
It was very much like watching a car crash – or at least waiting for the car crash to happen because you know from the very first chapter that the relationship is all going to end in tears. In fact, you could say that the author should have known even before that – her husband's history (which includes walking out on his pregnant first wife) would have rung at least a few warning bells with most of us.
But what is remarkable about the book is that there is no bitterness – she doesn't cast herself as a victim nor does she try to retrospectively downplay her feelings for her husband. It reads more as an attempt to understand what happened and why it happened – why one month a man is decorating their house with happy family photos and the next he has run off with a fellow professor at the college where he teaches.
Like I said, it's not a book I would normally pick off the shelf in a bookstore, but Isabel is a very good friend of my sister-in-law and I picked the book up off her kitchen table a month or so ago. Nor is the book without its faults – sometimes she seems to gloss over some of the stresses and strains in the relationship presumably to heighten the dramatic effect of the husband's departure.
But it is genuinely fascinating - and it is a story that probably is happening every day up and down the country.