It was about 10 years ago when Rachel Cusk came seemingly out of nowhere with a book called "A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother", a tender and touching look at not just becoming a mother, but also being a wife. The book became an unexpected bestseller, and for good reason, and it made for terrific reading. Now comes this sequel-of-sorts.
In "Aftermatch: On Marriage and Separation" (155 pages), we now learn that the author's marriage has fallen apart, and how she is coping with that, and dealing with her 2 young daughters. Reports Cusk: "My husband said he wanted half of everything, including the children. No, I said. What do you mean, he said. You can't divide people in half, I said." (This reminded me immediately of Radiohead's "Morning Bell", with the now infamous line "Cut the kids in half".) Right after those lines, though, Cusk dives into Greek mythology, and this becomes a recurring theme in the book. Pages and pages about Oedipus, Agamemnon, etc. and for the life of me, I cannot figure out why, or how this relates to the "Marriage and Separation" title of the book. Indeed, I wish the book would focus more on the reasons for the marriage falling apart, which are never fully explored or explained.
Yet there remain enough piercing comments that make this book worthwhile. "Sometimes, in the bath, the children cry. Their nakedness, or the warm water, or the comfort of the old routine--something, anyway, dislodges their sticking-plaster emotions and shows the wound beneath. It is my belief that I gave them that wound, so now I must take all the blame." Or this: "The first time I saw my husband after our separation, I realized, to my surprise, that he hated me. I have never seen him hate anyone: it was as though he was filled up with something that was not of himself, contaminated by it, like a coastline painted black by an oil spill." Those observations are what make this book worth reading. At a mere 150 pages (including those many Greek mythology-related pages, as well as the last 20 page chapter that brings an unrelated fictional story), this makes for a very quick read, and I simply wish there was more of it.