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Can This Marriage Be Saved?: A Memoir

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In this warm, deeply-personal, and often humorous book, Nancy McCabe re-examines and gains new understanding of her early life and her ill-advised marriage. Borrowing from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” how-to essays and before-and-after weight loss ads, a curriculum guide, Bible study notes, an obsession with Tom Swiftie jokes, and women’s In this warm, deeply-personal, and often humorous book, Nancy McCabe re-examines and gains new understanding of her early life and her ill-advised marriage. Borrowing from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” how-to essays and before-and-after weight loss ads, a curriculum guide, Bible study notes, an obsession with Tom Swiftie jokes, and women’s magazine columns and quizzes that oversimplified women’s lives and choices, McCabe examines the many influences that led to her youthful marriage—and out of it, into finally taking control of her life.


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In this warm, deeply-personal, and often humorous book, Nancy McCabe re-examines and gains new understanding of her early life and her ill-advised marriage. Borrowing from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” how-to essays and before-and-after weight loss ads, a curriculum guide, Bible study notes, an obsession with Tom Swiftie jokes, and women’s In this warm, deeply-personal, and often humorous book, Nancy McCabe re-examines and gains new understanding of her early life and her ill-advised marriage. Borrowing from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” how-to essays and before-and-after weight loss ads, a curriculum guide, Bible study notes, an obsession with Tom Swiftie jokes, and women’s magazine columns and quizzes that oversimplified women’s lives and choices, McCabe examines the many influences that led to her youthful marriage—and out of it, into finally taking control of her life.

30 review for Can This Marriage Be Saved?: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Lori

    This book is a joy. Sure, it's about a first, young, failed marriage. But it's also about what it means to be young and bumbling along the rickety dirt road of self-discovery. By turns hilarious (the title comes from a Lady's Home Journal column where angst-ridden women write in for advice) to outrageously hilarious (the author spends her honeymoon in the creepy Lily Tomlin suite of a strange hotel where the bathrooms are bedazzled with pictures of Jesus) to heartrending and life-affirming, this This book is a joy. Sure, it's about a first, young, failed marriage. But it's also about what it means to be young and bumbling along the rickety dirt road of self-discovery. By turns hilarious (the title comes from a Lady's Home Journal column where angst-ridden women write in for advice) to outrageously hilarious (the author spends her honeymoon in the creepy Lily Tomlin suite of a strange hotel where the bathrooms are bedazzled with pictures of Jesus) to heartrending and life-affirming, this is a coming-of-age memoir for anyone who's ever wondered, "What was I thinking?" Highly recommend. -- Lori Jakiela

  2. 5 out of 5

    Marti Stephens-hartka

    Loved this memoir of a failed marriage though I alternated between wanting to grab the author and shake her and relating to her completely.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    For those of us who made questionable choices when young & not fully aware of the world, it rings so true. Oh, what I would like to tell my younger self, but I don't think I would've understood at the time. Reading it brought back many memories that I've been re-examining today in a fresh light. The book encouraged me to be kinder to my younger self and the choices I made at the time. I expect that my period of self-reflection will continue for some time as I think through various aspects of the For those of us who made questionable choices when young & not fully aware of the world, it rings so true. Oh, what I would like to tell my younger self, but I don't think I would've understood at the time. Reading it brought back many memories that I've been re-examining today in a fresh light. The book encouraged me to be kinder to my younger self and the choices I made at the time. I expect that my period of self-reflection will continue for some time as I think through various aspects of the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rosa Sealy

    Loved this book. I expected a semi-autobiographical self-help book. Maybe a light-hearted one because of the cover. Fortunately, my expectations are wrong. This book focuses on the author asking herself the hard questions. How she just coasted through life although she was unhappy. You can tell this book is written after years of therapy. What I like most of all is her writing style. PS. The cover is weird and doesn't suit the book. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley. Loved this book. I expected a semi-autobiographical self-help book. Maybe a light-hearted one because of the cover. Fortunately, my expectations are wrong. This book focuses on the author asking herself the hard questions. How she just coasted through life although she was unhappy. You can tell this book is written after years of therapy. What I like most of all is her writing style. PS. The cover is weird and doesn't suit the book. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Allie Marini

    * I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review * Oh, man, I worry about the marketing for this book (since in addition to reviewing books, marketing is my professional field.) There are two BIG obstacles this book will need to clear and I *really* worry abut its ability to clear those obstacles and actually be found and appreciated for its artistic value. Let's address the obstacles first, before talking about the book content. OBSTACLE #1 -- The Title. There * I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review * Oh, man, I worry about the marketing for this book (since in addition to reviewing books, marketing is my professional field.) There are two BIG obstacles this book will need to clear and I *really* worry abut its ability to clear those obstacles and actually be found and appreciated for its artistic value. Let's address the obstacles first, before talking about the book content. OBSTACLE #1 -- The Title. There are going to be a lot of readers who feel like the title is a "bait and switch" or otherwise misleading. The title implies that it's a self-help book. Unfortunately, the women's magazine column the writer references in the title is very dated (I'm a reader in my 40s, and that column is only vaguely familiar in my memories.) A Millennial or Gen Z reader (for whom this book is arguably MORE helpful for -- as they too might be in danger of selling themselves short in a poorly suited marriage) are very unlikely to know this reference. I've already seen a few reviews that note that the title doesn't really describe what the book is about. I kind of wish that the writer had called it "Rough Drafts" or something similar to that, since most of the threaded essays deal with insecurity, false starts, and selling yourself short. Hopefully there's time to reconsider the title -- if not, I definitely think the title will be working against the book, which is a shame. OBSTACLE #2 -- The Cover Art. Its a cool cover -- just not for THIS book. Again, I get it, it's supposed to reference the old women's magazines of the 70's (or Katy Keene?) but it's just not the right cover for the book. It doesn't match the tone, voice, or overall theme of the essays inside. I hope there's time enough to reconsider that, too. The book itself: I love memoirs in essay form that each utilize a different, related conceit to tell the story (in a way, this memoir reminded me a little like Tabitha Blankenbiller's Eats of Eden). Though we're about 15 years apart in age and grew up in different regions, I myself identified with many of Nancy's missteps, marrying too young because of a teenage heartbreak and losing a significant number of years struggling to find my worth in a loveless marriage, finding myself in an MFA writing program as a last-ditch resort to rediscover the me in me. I think that this experience is not unique, especially for girls who grow up in rural or semi-rural, God-loving communities where there are different expectations placed on women and where there are fewer options open (or encouraged.) For most of the memoir, the different themes of the threaded essays worked. The women's magazine quizzes, (one of which I remember reading in an online lit mag a few years back!), the Tom Swifties, the Garden of Earthly Delights, etc. I'll admit that the Bible study ones went on a bit too long for my taste and there were a few that I felt could have been cut. Honestly, the one most memorable is the one about "In the beginning there was the Word" -- that was powerful enough to be the singular Bible study chapter and I don't think that the memoir would have suffered from a closer edit of that section. There were definitely times and gaps where I felt the author could have gone deeper, and I wish that she had. The end of the marriage comes on abruptly and only skims the surface, so the last section feels a little rushed, compared to the chapters that precede it. Overall, the memoir does a very good job of keeping the timeline stable, or letting the reader know when we're jumping forward, or backward, which I appreciated. The only reason I'm giving this book 4 stars instead of 5 is the above mentioned obstacles that I hope can be re-directed before an official release, a weird formatting issue (especially at the start of new sections) with capital T's showing up in strange places, and the fact that the last section felt rushed, ending on a vignette that didn't really feel like an ending point for me. I would have loved for her to revisit the moon theme that is threaded through the narrative, or to take us back to a different point in time. The struggling against the wind just didn't feel like the resonant note that I wanted this memoir to end on. However, the rest of it was a really enjoyable, if sad, read that brought back a lot of personal memories and made my similar experience seem like less of a mistake that I made, and more like a mistake that cultural conditioning helped me make. And, as Nancy writes so eloquently, "Stories can be revised and rewritten."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Anita Marceca dutrow

    Nancy Macabe’s, Can This Marriage Be Saved, is a delight to read. It is an honest, insightful rendering of how she came to be the person she was at the time of her wedding. She recounts, in stunning detail, events that shaped her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood leading up to a relationship that culminated in marriage. Although, Can This marriage Be Saved, Is deeply personal to the author’s experience, the premise is applicable to all of us. What leads up to the relationships that we Nancy Macabe’s, Can This Marriage Be Saved, is a delight to read. It is an honest, insightful rendering of how she came to be the person she was at the time of her wedding. She recounts, in stunning detail, events that shaped her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood leading up to a relationship that culminated in marriage. Although, Can This marriage Be Saved, Is deeply personal to the author’s experience, the premise is applicable to all of us. What leads up to the relationships that we are in and what events shape the person that we become? What happens to relationships when a person continues to develop and mature and the spouse does not? What then becomes of the relationship? Again, in vivid detail, Nancy describes the subtle events that eventually lead to the dissolution of the marriage. The context of the story is set in the background of a culture that supports and nurtures lasting marriages at all costs. Nancy examines the introspection and efforts that are needed to not only hold the marriage together, but to let it go. While a story of a difficult marriage can be sobering. This memoir is not. It is humorous, well-written, and incredibly readable. I highly recommend it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Nancy McCabe accomplishes something rare here: approaching her personal history and pain with openness, self-deprecation, and an amazing generosity to all participants! This story, as with many other memoirs, learns from experience, grows, and faces pain with resilience, but without the usual score-settling or tempting personal jabs. Instead, McCabe uses a light touch, with humor and the wisdom of hindsight, crafted into effortless prose styling those familiar with her work know well. She uses t Nancy McCabe accomplishes something rare here: approaching her personal history and pain with openness, self-deprecation, and an amazing generosity to all participants! This story, as with many other memoirs, learns from experience, grows, and faces pain with resilience, but without the usual score-settling or tempting personal jabs. Instead, McCabe uses a light touch, with humor and the wisdom of hindsight, crafted into effortless prose styling those familiar with her work know well. She uses tropes from women's magazines from a certain period to punctuate the story and help to keep our tongues firmly in cheek. While clever and fun, the story almost doesn't need it, as it clearly stands on its own. Why you should read this: Because who we were forms who we are, and McCabe gets this. Because we are all flawed and doing the best we can, and sometimes, that isn't only good enough, it is necessary, because the journey that comes out of those rough beginnings is better than a more idealized, bland version we might dream up, with fewer bumps in the road. And that matters.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Donna Boyd

    Can This Marriage Be Saved by Nancy McCabe is a memoir about relationships, happiness, or the lack thereof, and marriage. This book is honest and well written and takes the reader from McCabe's childhood, through her marriage at a very young age, leading up to her divorce. It is, at times, very serious but it is also funny. Can you imagine spending your honeymoon in the Lily Tomlin suite of a hotel? Photos of McCabe are included throughout the book and I think they added to the story, giving the Can This Marriage Be Saved by Nancy McCabe is a memoir about relationships, happiness, or the lack thereof, and marriage. This book is honest and well written and takes the reader from McCabe's childhood, through her marriage at a very young age, leading up to her divorce. It is, at times, very serious but it is also funny. Can you imagine spending your honeymoon in the Lily Tomlin suite of a hotel? Photos of McCabe are included throughout the book and I think they added to the story, giving the reader a glimpse of what she looked like during a particular time in the story. There are also quizzes in the book that ask hard, thought provoking questions and it is in her answers to these questions that I learned the most about McCabe. I highly recommend this book. Thank you to #NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Coralee Hicks

    Nancy McCabe, a professor of writing at the University of Pittsburgh (Bradford Campus) presents a poignant series of essays remembering her childhood and her ill advised early marriage. Using several writing styles, including an essays previously published in some literary reviews, the reflections help both the reader and the author assess how incidents in childhood become markers for in our adult lives. McCabe is a polished author, having won several awards for her non fiction. Her detached ton Nancy McCabe, a professor of writing at the University of Pittsburgh (Bradford Campus) presents a poignant series of essays remembering her childhood and her ill advised early marriage. Using several writing styles, including an essays previously published in some literary reviews, the reflections help both the reader and the author assess how incidents in childhood become markers for in our adult lives. McCabe is a polished author, having won several awards for her non fiction. Her detached tone helps the reader find compassion, as she shares the most intimate sorrows of her life. Emerging from regret to release, the book ends in triumph. An encouraging read. Recommended for young adults and readers who enjoy creative non fiction. Full disclosure: I received this ARC from Netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    When I saw the title of this book Can this Marriage be Saved? I knew I had to read it, (not to mention I loved the cover) not because I am having marriage trouble rather because it reminded me of the magazine articles of the same name which I loved reading. This however is not a bunch of articles put together and learning how to solve them, the title and the book really do not coincide. The book cover also does not match the book. This is the honest and often funny memoir of Nancy McCabe. She giv When I saw the title of this book Can this Marriage be Saved? I knew I had to read it, (not to mention I loved the cover) not because I am having marriage trouble rather because it reminded me of the magazine articles of the same name which I loved reading. This however is not a bunch of articles put together and learning how to solve them, the title and the book really do not coincide. The book cover also does not match the book. This is the honest and often funny memoir of Nancy McCabe. She gives a very good timetable of her life, her marriage the decisions she made, really letting the readers in. I liked the concept of expectations versus what she really wanted and how it would affect today’s society. Perhaps young readers can learn from her. *Thank you to the Publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Nagrodski

    While I enjoyed many parts of "Can This Marriage Be Saved", I have to admit that I won't ever read it again. I just kept expecting the character to grow/change throughout her journey - but instead, she only really sorta changes in the final papers of the book. That said, it's interesting how the caller can now look back on her life with new perspective. It's a nice reminder to all of us to be kinder to our past selves. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this one - I While I enjoyed many parts of "Can This Marriage Be Saved", I have to admit that I won't ever read it again. I just kept expecting the character to grow/change throughout her journey - but instead, she only really sorta changes in the final papers of the book. That said, it's interesting how the caller can now look back on her life with new perspective. It's a nice reminder to all of us to be kinder to our past selves. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this one - I appreciated the reminder to be kinder to the 20yr old version of me!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    The title caught my eye because I used to read those articles in Ladies Home Journal many years ago. I've read McCabe's other books. This one is sad. She pines for her high school boyfriend and marries a man she doesn't love. She talks about her youth and feelings that led her to settle in a marriage she knew wasn't right even before the wedding. I could relate to many of her sentiments. Reading this was a travel back in time to more archaic conventions and habits. Thanks to NetGalley and Univer The title caught my eye because I used to read those articles in Ladies Home Journal many years ago. I've read McCabe's other books. This one is sad. She pines for her high school boyfriend and marries a man she doesn't love. She talks about her youth and feelings that led her to settle in a marriage she knew wasn't right even before the wedding. I could relate to many of her sentiments. Reading this was a travel back in time to more archaic conventions and habits. Thanks to NetGalley and University of Missouri Press for the early read in exchange for my honest review.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    This is a well written, fascinating and brave memoir. I love memoirs and this is one of the best I’ve read in a while. I’ve read a couple recently that read more like a history of their careers and jobs. But here we have such honestly and thoughtfulness, the characters are clear, the memories are insightful and make you think. Also loved the photos, so weird to read a memoir that has not one photo. Highly recommend.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kayo

    Always hope in memoirs that there is an update or what's life like now moment. I was hoping for a semblance of happiness in this book. There seemed to be none. Should have skipped this one. Thanks to publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free,it had no bearing on the rating I gave it. Always hope in memoirs that there is an update or what's life like now moment. I was hoping for a semblance of happiness in this book. There seemed to be none. Should have skipped this one. Thanks to publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free,it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Stacy Lynn

    This memoir is sweet, sad, and funny—uncomfortable funny—like you are one in a crowd, laughing at someone who is utterly clueless about their self-worth and you don’t want to laugh at them because they are ridiculous, but rather you want to hug them and tell them they are OK; that they are not weird, not ridiculous, just lost for a minute.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Felicetti

    Funny and heartbreaking.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Quirky little memoir of a woman who perhaps lived a few decades before her time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bridgett

    Can This Marriage Be Saved is wise, funny, and honest. I enjoyed it immensely.

  19. 5 out of 5

    kstp

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robin Brown

  21. 5 out of 5

    Shirley

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deirdre Fagan

  23. 4 out of 5

    K.B. Carle

  24. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  25. 5 out of 5

    Lee Howlett

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ngm4

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carolyne Lee

  28. 5 out of 5

    Littsburgh

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  30. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Gulbro

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