Breaking Apart
Dreaming of Divorce
by Wendy Swallow
Book Review by Amy Coffin
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Divorce is all too common these days and there are tons of published works on the subject. Educated professionals, however, write most of these books. These authors have all the right credentials, exercises and catch phrases to help one cope, but the reader is still left with a nagging guilt of experiencing feelings that aren't considered normal.

Enter Breaking Apart, by Wendy Swallow. She isn't an expert on the subject, and you probably won't find her rubbing elbows with Dr. Phil or Oprah. She is, in fact, a regular gal who decided to write about her failed marriage.

Swallow herself seems quite surprised that she even wrote about such a personal topic of her family's experience with divorce. She claims she only got the publishing contract because not many authors would dare discuss their private family business in such a way.

Regardless of the reasons, readers should feel grateful that the book was written. Men and women who feel trapped in lifeless marriages may fantasize about the single life (as did the author who subtitled this book Dreaming of Divorce). Swallow takes that idealized bubble and pops it back down to reality by revealing what actually happens when a marriage breaks apart.

Through 20/20 hindsight, Swallow describes the early years of her marriage and the elements the ultimately lead to demise. Two lovely children were added to the pot, but the relationship could not be saved. As mentioned earlier, the author thought divorce would be peaceful. What she found was exactly the opposite. Money problems, a lack of identity, and the pain of having the amount of time spent with the children determined by the courts.

Swallow also discusses the public perception of divorce. At family gatherings, she felt like the outsider who failed in marriage. As a guest in her parents' house, she was delegated to the couch so her married siblings could have the beds. When socializing with friends, Swallow thought her newly single status would have her perceived as a threat to married women. On the contrary, these women envied her independence. They were the ones dreaming of divorce and the married men felt the threat.

Overall, Swallow provides a nice balance to both sides of the story. It would be very easy to present her ex-husband as an incompetent psycho, but she doesn't stoop to that level. She discusses his problems with depression and anger management. On the flip side, she also candidly addresses her own co-dependent characteristics.

In the middle of this divorce were two small boys. Swallow details the impact of this event on their lives and fills the readers in on their development. She does not sugar coat their reactions, providing an excellent perspective on how children actually feel when their parents split.

Breaking Apart is a must-read for anyone involved in a troubled marriage or divorce. There are many self-help books out there to aid in mending relationships, but this is the only memoir that tells the reader "This is how divorce feels. You are not alone." At the same time, Swallow puts to rest all the myths of simplicity and independence that people fantasize about in terms of divorce. This is the real deal and it isn't pretty. Don't think it is that easy.

I'd like to recommend this book to the majority of readers. Naturally, those who are divorced or in troubled marriages will receive the most benefit from Swallow's words. However, spouses in intact marriages can gain insight in their own relationships as well. Because the author is female, women may relate to her story more than men might. The only group of people who probably won't benefit from the memoir are singles who don't have a committed relationship in which to refer.

If you or someone you know is involved in a troubled marriage, then I suggest you consider purchasing this work by Wendy Swallow. Divorce books written by licensed professionals may help you cope. However, Breaking Apart will give you the assurance that your feelings of despair are common and you are not alone.