When Suzanne Finnamore was 40, her husband came home one night, drank a couple martinis, told her she was beautiful, and said, ”I deserve happiness.” Then he said, ”Good-bye, darling,” and walked out, leaving Finnamore crouching on the floor of the entryway to their house, and their toddler son sleeping downstairs. In her funny, furious, and elegantly crafted memoir, Split, Finnamore takes brutally precise inventory of the toxic fallout of a failed marriage: the murderous rage, inappropriate lust, and general wretchedness. Anyone who has been through a shattering divorce, or even just watched one, will appreciate the candor and wit with which Finnamore describes the experience.
Finnamore, the author of bubbly novels about courtship and motherhood, was not entirely surprised by ”N’s” departure. For years, she had endured N’s vague dissatisfaction, not to mention the abruptly terminated cell phone calls and the volume of Zen poetry that turned up, lovingly inscribed in a feminine hand. When she asked questions, he accused her of being more of a prison warden than a wife. One of Finnamore’s first reactions to his departure — after reciting the Lord’s Prayer, calling her mother, and drinking a tumbler of mandarin-flavored vodka — was a disorienting giddiness. Alas, this was just the first nauseating dip on an emotional roller-coaster ride she records in chilling detail. She tries to win N back, then wishes him dead. She wishes herself dead, then concludes she’s too angry to die. She misses the homey rituals they shared, seduces him for a quickie — then feels contempt for this ”tall, crooked man with yellowing teeth and a leer.” Equally unpredictable are her friends’ reactions. ”Doll, you have no idea how I have longed for this day,” one declares, while another (unwisely) takes her hand and coos, ”You need to let it go.” Her mother, Bunny, arrives bearing a fifth of Jack Daniel’s and a half gallon of butter pecan ice cream. She has her own, unwelcome thoughts on the split. ”I’m sixty-six years old,” Bunny says. ”And if your husband isn’t having an affair, well. I’d be very surprised.”
Bunny — whom Finnamore writes about with affection and awe — turns out to be correct, as Finnamore learns when her son returns from a trip to the zoo with N and a lovely young woman. The confirmation of N’s betrayal inspires a fresh eruption of the mingled grief and fury that make divorce so exquisitely painful. As Finnamore laments to her mother: ”Can I just please have one consistent feeling about this person?” Bunny, as usual, knows best: ”You’d be the first.” B+