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text 2014-11-13 20:40
Love Is a Many Splendored Thing -- Until It's Not


When the family breadwinner leaves in The Three Weissmanns of Westport, he doesn’t check into the Wooden Waldorf. No. Wealthy Joseph Weissmann doesn’t have the good grace to die. Instead, he abandons Betty, his wife of more than 50 years, for a woman half his age.


Now, while some may be scandalized by this, not me. I say if the old coot (or anyone really) wasn’t happy in his marriage, better to get out than make his wife miserable, too. Better to leave than live a lie. REALLY better to get out than bring his wife home an unwelcome gift. Let’s just call that gift what kids might…cooties.  :-|


Nope, if a marriage isn’t working,  I say put that puppy to sleep and move on. Everyone will be better off. Better off as long as the breadwinner leaves the stay-at-home partner financially well enough off to live. Not only did Joseph not do this, but he put the financial screws to Betty, eventually forcing her to leave her home and rely on the kindness of relatives.


And this is where I have a problem, not just with Joseph, but with Betty and anyone like her. Actually, Betty may be forgiven. At 75 years old, she comes from a different era. Still, there are countless woman today making the same ill-considered choices Betty did.



Making the choice to stay home and raise their children, with seemingly not a care in the world about their future. They are oh-so sure their marriage is forever. Certain their husband will never leave. Sure they will not want to get the hell out of dodge themselves, but be stuck. Absolutely convinced their love is a many splendored thing that will last a lifetime.


Meanwhile, the divorce rate in the U.S. is almost 50 percent, and the financial losers in a divorce are almost always women and children.


I am not a financial planner, and I do not pretend to know the financial ins and outs of what a stay-at-home spouse should do, but I do know it is more than live in LaLa Land.

In the online article A Man Is Not a Financial Plan, Especially After Divorce, divorce support expert Cathy Meyer gives some excellent advice, such as having one’s own bank account and credit card, staying in touch with former business colleagues, or working part-time when the kids are school age.


No, I am not a financial expert, but I have seen enough in life with my own mother and friends to know that any couple where one is a stay-at-home spouse (male or female) needs to either do some research on their own, or consult a financial expert, and have a plan. And it should be sooner rather than later.


What do you think?

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review 2014-11-12 09:31
Just Read the Original...Sense and Sensibility
The Three Weissmanns of Westport - Cathleen Schine

This was a library find that looked to be a fun read, so I grabbed it. The Three Weissmanns of Westport, author Cathleen Schine’s tribute to Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, takes the story of a recently widowed mother and her young daughters being tossed out of their home in 18th-century England and fast forwards and morphs it into a 21st-century divorce, American-style.

Taken completely on its own The Three Weissmanns is a somewhat fun and witty look at the demise of a marriage and its ripple effects on the entire family. However, juxtaposed against Austen’s classic, two things struck me: 1) how far women’s lives have evolved in autonomy and independence, but 2) how little women’s emotional independence appears to have evolved in the same time period.

Certainly, the premise of this story is a tempting one – the wealthy husband of a long-married couple tosses his wife from their home and puts the financial screws on her after he falls in love with a younger woman. With her grown daughters also facing financial ruin, the three women accept a relative’s offer of a beach cottage, where they go to regroup and find new lives and loves amidst Westport high society. I really wanted to love this book, but in the end, I can only say I mildly liked it.

What resonated was the story of Betty and Joseph, an older couple that still like each other, but have grown apart. This is the story of many couples and what can happen, especially to the wife when she’s never worked. Though I wanted to brain him, I understood Joseph’s delusion that he could recapture his youth with a younger woman. I liked Betty’s plucky attitude – she is miserable, but determined to stay optimistic, even if she has to convince herself she’s a widow. Also authentic and poignant is the story of Joseph’s changed relationship with his daughters.

What I didn’t care for so much are daughters Annie and Miranda’s stories. Both are around 50 years old, and pretty much dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to love. Annie moons over author Frederick, who’s ruled by his adult children who hate Annie. And, Miranda falls for Kit, a young divorced actor with a child. Schine keeps the reader wondering about the two men’s intentions, but sometimes I felt she kept me wondering too much — so much so that I found neither love affair particularly exciting or interesting. Then, there is the elderly lawyer Roberts, who supposedly loves Miranda, but his story is so cagey and oddly developed, one really doesn’t know.

Additionally, I had some rather sizable beefs with parts of the storyline. First, there are a couple of pivotal chance encounters which bring out key information, but the encounters are downright implausible. They simply are beyond the bounds of belief, making me wonder how how an editor let them through. Secondly, Miranda’s story has a huge twist in the end which I simply do not buy, given she’s a woman of almost 50.

Still, another point in this book’s favor is the highlighting of the schizophrenia of women’s lives even 200 years after Jane Austen’s work. Schine’s work shows both how far women have come, and how much is still the same. Certainly, Annie and Miranda are independent women with careers of their own and the ability to chart their own course without men at the helm. This is heartening. What is sad is that their attitudes to love are pretty much stuck in the 18th-century, with both women mooning over men like lovesick cows and pretty much pinning their happiness on men. What is even sadder is that it’s true of most women today.

And then, there’s poor Betty – always a stay-at-home mom, and even though wealthy, Joseph is able to bring her to the brink of financial ruin unless she buckles under to his terms even in this day and age. These issues are still societal problems and Schine’s shining a light on them is important.

This was a very hard book for me to rate, but in the end, it was not nearly as promising as I had hoped.

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url 2013-10-25 10:00
The Austen Project
Sense & Sensibility (Austen Project) - Joanna Trollope
The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel - Cathleen Schine
The Cookbook Collector - Allegra Goodman
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Emma - Jane Austen
Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Persuasion - Jane Austen

How was I not informed? Harper Collins is publishing six reimaginings of Austen's novels by six contemporary authors. So, for example, Joanna Trollope has written a new version of Sense and Sensibility that takes place in the twenty-first century (I understand there are iPads involved). 


I am always interested in reimaginings of classic works, although I'm not sure why it was necessary to hire authors for this specific task -- after all, Cathleen Schine and Allegra Goodman already rewrote Sense and Sensibility last year without even being asked! Does the world really need three twenty-first century versions of this novel?


That said, of course I'll read it. Trollope seems to be a good fit for Austen, and I'm downright excited to see Val McDermid's take on Northanger Abbey. (In my view, Northanger Abbey is far and away the worst of Austen's novels, so I might find myself preferring McDermid's version.) I'm less enthused to see that Curtis Sittenfield is taking on Pride and Prejudice, and slightly ill at the idea of the terribly twee Alexander McCall Smith being given custody of my beloved Emma


Mansfield Park and Persuasion have yet to be assigned. If I were in control of the publishing universe, Jeanette Winterson would be adapting Mansfield Park and Valerie Martin would handle Persuasion. (Martin is probably not a big enough name, but she should be.) Here's hoping Harper Collins resists the temptation to hand them over to J. K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer.

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review 2013-10-24 23:25
The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel
The Three Weissmanns of Westport - Cathleen Schine Betty and Joseph Weissmann have been married for fifty years. They've lived a lovely life, full of art and parties and books, in a beautiful and well-appointed apartment in New York. There they raised their two daughters--technically Betty's daughters, but Joseph (or Josie, as the girls call him) has been their dad since they were toddlers--Annie, a librarian, and Miranda, a literary agent. The Weissmanns are happy. What a surprise, then, when Joseph announces that he intends to divorce Betty. "'Irreconcilable differences,' Joseph said. 'Oh, Joseph. What does that have to do with divorce?'" But there is another woman (a fact of which Betty does not become explicitly aware for some time after Joseph's announcement, although when she calls to tell Miranda the news, "He is in love," her daughter states bluntly, and "I'm afraid he must be," Betty responds). Yes, at seventy-eight Joseph has fallen in love again. She, the other woman, Felicity, suggests that it might be best if Joseph ask Betty to leave their lovely apartment, which he does. On the advice of his lawyers, he cuts off Betty's access to their credit cards and their bank accounts. Luckily, Cousin Lou, a big-hearted open-armed product of Ellis Island immigration, offers the use of his cottage in Westport, for as long as Betty needs it. Miranda having just suffered a James Frey caliber humiliation at the hands of Oprah, decides she and Annie must also move to Westport with their mother, and so they become the three Weissmanns of Westport. The women--for the girls are really fifty years old--gather up most of the fine furniture, paintings, linens and table settings from the New York apartment, and set up housekeeping in the small, musty, somewhat ramshackle beach house on the shore of Long Island Sound. They visit and meet people. They attempt to live within their means, or rather, Annie--the sensible one--attempts to corral the other two's spending. But Miranda, who is passionate and headstrong, wants what she wants, and Betty has never known anything else, so Annie's efforts--though always well intentioned and often funny--are mostly for naught. The Three Weissmanns of Westport is in many ways (some quite explicit, although I would be hard-pressed in my ignorance to point them out) an homage to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. But although I don't know my Austen very well, I do know a beautifully written, deeply felt, fully realized novel when I read one. Further, Cathleen Schine has accomplished something very difficult to pull off, which is to produce a domestic comedy--no, it's not chick lit--which is both hilarious and tender, sharp and sweet, and always, in all ways, intelligent. As the women learn to live with their new situations--Betty, as a self-proclaimed "widow" (it makes it easier to grieve for what she's lost and then to move on), Annie and Miranda as the children of divorce (albeit at a relatively advanced age)--the reader laughs, despairs, and rejoices with them. This book, which is due out in paperback next week, is a natural for book groups, and that makes me happy. It makes me happy because it is a wonderful book, which is ripe for discussion at any number of different levels. It makes me happy because it will probably send its readers (like me, who has Sense and Sensibility queued up for a reread) off in search of Austen and Alcott and Dickinson and other lovely and intelligent lady writers of generations past. And it makes me happy because it will surely grow Cathleen Schine's readership, both for this novel and, with any luck, for her rich backlist.
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review 2013-04-16 11:04
The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel
The Three Weissmanns of Westport - Cathleen Schine http://www.bostonbibliophile.com/2011/04/review-three-weissmanns-of-westport-by.html
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