By all accounts, Suzanne Finnamore was a success. She wrote bestsellers about engagement and childbirth, got regular assignments from glossy magazines like O and New York, and doted on her toddler son. The day her husband walked out on her, she became a different kind of writer. Split abandons the mask of fictional characters Finnamore used in previous books to deliver her wry observations on relationships, and it taps into the raw pain of the first-person singular. While her five-stages-of-grief memoir is a bit overproduced, sometimes obscuring her keen insight under a blanket of too-clever writers' tricks, Finnamore nevertheless immerses readers in the frustrating, cathartic, day-to-day task of moving on from betrayal.
Of course it was another woman. Although in the "denial" stage, Finnamore refuses to believe it, she eventually accepts that the random book of poetry delivered to her house and the Cole Porter lyrics jotted on the cocktail napkin meant all along that her husband didn't wait until he moved out to get on with his romantic life. The most wrenching parts of the book deal with Finnamore's fury at the new squeeze she calls Thing Woman, and her attempt to shield her young son from her poisonous rage. In another poignantly specific segment, she recounts a consequence of her new career as a divorce columnist: going on a television show to talk about her work, and being blindsided by portions of her wedding video in the B-roll used to introduce her. Objects, words, people, memories, souvenirs, and restless ideas all conspire against Finnamore's reach for serenity and a new, post-marriage paradigm.
Sometimes Split achieves the simplicity that allows readers direct access to Finnamore's experiences. But the book suffers from a heavily workshopped feel, from the witty-bitter dialogue between the author and her girlfriends that's been punched up in post-production to the structure of slivered vignettes arranged with literary disregard for context and chronology. There's a Split that's less writerly and more immediate hiding inside the one Finnamore ultimately delivers. But some of her anecdotes and moments of clarity break through the layers of technique. In spite of its flaws, the book reveals a side of divorce that's absorbing, frightening, and very occasionally hopeful.