There is pain in every divorce story, but not every divorce story can be related by a narrator as capable as Gina Frangello. Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason, Frangello’s raw, eloquent account of the demise of her marriage, is an exemplar of self-reflection, tinged with optimism about the power to recover one’s life from the depth of suffering.
Long before she reached her 18th wedding anniversary in 2011, Frangello was acutely aware of “the signs you are not living the right life for you, even if your life looks unfathomably pretty and privileged compared to where you come from or in other people’s eyes.” And so she began a long-distance emotional affair with a writer and rock musician whose novel she was publishing, culminating in a full-blown relationship she concealed from her husband for nearly three years.
Like many divorces, Frangello’s mutated from the early hope of relative amicability to the ugly reality of bitter conflict, as a husband who had trouble curbing his public displays of anger even in happier times set out to inflict maximum pain for her transgression. As the warfare escalated, Frangello faced the task of caring for her aging parents and underwent seven months of treatment for breast cancer.
Amid this account of Job-like affliction, Frangello never shirks responsibility for the breakup. Still, casting her ordeal in the form of a trial, she makes a passionate case from an ardently feminist perspective for the rightness of her decision to abandon her husband for “the man who rewired my heart” and pleads that her effort to rebuild her children’s trust be “judged by the courts of distance and hindsight.”
For all her undeniable current happiness, Frangello resists the urge to affix a happy ending to her story. Instead, she offers only a “vow to continue unfolding for as long as I breathe.” Considering all the heartbreak she has endured and the uncertainty of life she knows all too well, that modest hope seems entirely fitting.