cover image Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation

Aftermath: On Marriage and Separation

Rachel Cusk. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23 (160p) ISBN 978-0-374-10213-5

Recently separated from her husband, British novelist and memoirist Cusk (A Life’s Work) chronicles the upheaval that follows divorce in a probing style that lays bare the divorce’s impact on herself and her family. At a Christmas service with her two young children, she feels their vulnerability exposed. No longer an intact family, they now “belong more to the world in all its risky disorder, its fragmentation, its freedom.” Cerebral and unsentimental, 40-something Cusk reveals her insights about gender roles, feminism, motherhood, and religion. In her marriage, she strove for equality, with she and her husband living together as two hybrids, each of them “half male and half female.” During her divorce, she finds resonance in the ancient Greek dramas—their tempestuous world of feeling and fate feel truer to her than the stories of the holy family in Christianity. Feeling in exile from her own history, she says she no longer has a life. “It’s an afterlife,” she tells a friend, an aftermath, which means a second harvest—a life with knowledge of what has gone before. Interspersed within the narrative are stories within stories, vivid scenes, and piercing observations. In this thought-provoking memoir, Cusk musters her considerable literary powers to mine a complex terrain filled with heartbreak and doubt. Agent: Sarah Chalfant, Wylie Agency. (Aug.)