Review of You Could Make This Place Beautiful, by Maggie Smith

You Could Make This Place Beautiful

A Memoir

by Maggie Smith

One Signal Publishers (Atria), 2023. 314 pages.
Review written July 18, 2023, from a library book.
Starred Review

Oh my goodness. This book was hard to read. But so evocative. So perfectly expressing something awful — what it’s like to go through divorce.

The book is a series of essays, vignettes, poems, thoughts — all about the time period after the author learned her husband was cheating on her.

But it’s not so simple as that. Not by a longshot.

And that’s what I loved about the book. Because, I, too, learned my husband was cheating on me. For me, it was Dalmatian hair on his socks, not a pine cone. And nothing, but nothing, was simple after that. I love the way she captures the oh-so-complicated emotions and thoughts and heart-pangs involved.

It also made me feel like some of the things I was slightly ashamed of — Oh, someone else did that, too!

For example, I didn’t tell my family and friends at first — because I didn’t want to hurt their relationship with him. (And that was a lonely, horrid, place to be.) I, too, went to counseling with my husband, where we didn’t talk about my husband seeing another woman, but about what I was doing wrong. For me, too, the hardest thing to forgive was when he moved to the other side of the world from our children, in order to get away from me. The second-guessing. The weird dreams. So much about her experiences reminded me of my own.

I very much liked the way she told the story in essentially a nonlinear way. Because I’ve tried to tell my story in linear ways, and it inevitably leaves so much out. Not that this includes everything, but I like the way it expresses the wounds within wounds, but also how it’s all tied up in someone you once loved with your whole heart and it’s tangled up in beautiful memories and what does your life mean now and all the bundle of questioning and pondering and trying to keep moving.

And I already loved Maggie Smith’s Keep Moving book. Her divorce happened many years after mine, and as thoroughly happy as I am with my life now — this will always still strike a chord.

Yes. It’s the story of the end of a marriage and moving on after it and somehow coping with parenting and adulting and making a living with a completely unexpected life — all beautifully told.

Thank you, Maggie Smith. This book is beautiful.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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