Below is my review of the book Unliving the Dream by Sandra Vischer. These five (5) are the major characters or “players” in this fictional life story.
- Alex: The Wife/Mother and author of the book. She has been married for twenty-plus years before the “story” unfolds before her eyes. She believes that she has a very happy and loving marriage.
- James: The Husband/Father of the story. He is the one who initiates the break-up of the marriage and family.
- Mara: The “other woman” who just happens to be a friend of Alex and an employee of the family firm.
- Lily: The daughter of Alex and James.
- Jack: The son of Alex and James.
When the book commences, Alex and James are at a hotel in Victoria, Canada. Alex senses that something is amiss with their relationship and marriage of twenty-plus (20) years and keeps asking James questions about what is wrong and what is happening to their relationship. He finally blurts out these words: “There is someone I would like to start seeing. I just need a little break. I want to see what it feels like to live on my own”. The words are devastating to Alex and she, with vivid, descriptive writing, conveys to her readers the anger, anguish and devastation that she feels upon hearing these words. Her anguish only increases when she learns from James that the object of his affection is Mara, a much younger friend of Alex’s and an employee of the family firm. This has the effect of being a “double whammy”. Not only is there another woman, but the woman is much younger, Wife’s friend and a member of the family business. The intensity of Alex’s crisis increases when she learns the affair between James and Mara has been going on for several months without her having any knowledge or suspicion of it.
It is very painful for Alex to continue to work at the family firm, Extreme Perspectives, as she has daily contact with both James and Mara. Finally, a friend of Alex’s convinces Mara that she should leave the family firm. Several chapters of the book are devoted to the pain and suffering endured by Alex. She wants James to return to her and she so wants her family to become intact again. She holds out the hope that James will realize he has made a mistake and want to return to the family.
There is a time when the wishes of Alex come true. James asks Alex to meet him for a drink. Over drinks, James tells Alex the words she so wants to hear: “I realize now what an idiot I was to throw our life away”… “I want us back”… “I’ve made such a huge mistake”. Alex is overjoyed at hearing the very words she had dreamed of hearing from James. For a short time, Alex is cautious and asks for time to rebuild her trust in him. James promises they can go slowly and carefully and that she can have the time that she needs to learn to trust him again.
For a short time, everyone appears to be happy! Alex, James, Lily and Jack begin to live together again as a family. Five to six months into their reconciliation, Alex begins to have second thoughts about the relationship. James assures her that all is well and that she has nothing to worry about. Then, when James is away on a business trip, Alex receives a call from Mara who says she would like to meet her for lunch. Alex tells her bluntly, “Whatever you have to tell me, you can say over the phone”. Mara replies “I just thought you ought to know that James and I have been seeing each other again”. Alex is overwhelmed with sadness, anger, anguish and emotional pain. How could this be happening to her a second time?
When Alex confronts James about the phone call from Mara, his face becomes twisted with malice and rage as he vents his anger toward Mara for making the call to Alex. An emotionally spent Alex chooses to move on with her life before breaking down in tears of sadness.
The book then devotes more time in describing the trials and tribulations faced by Alex as she seeks to once again experience “normalcy” in her life. She relies upon her good girlfriends to help her recover from this second painful rejection by James.
Lily is also experiencing tremendous changes in her life. Her grades drop from A’s and B’s; she indulges in experimentation with smoking and drinking; she begins a sexual relationship with Brian; she refuses to listen to either parent or to follow any family rules. She misses eight (8) days of school and her behavior there leads to some suspensions from school. Finally, a decision is made to take Lily to Alpine, a Behavioral Modification Program for wayward youths in the State of Utah. To get Lily there, Alex chooses to lie to her by telling her they are going to have a girls weekend of fun and shopping! Imagine Lily’s dismay when she is surrounded by two male employees of Alpine at the airport terminal, who take her away to begin the “tough love” rehabilitation program.
While Lily’s first letters home are filled with how terrible the place is and how awful the food is and lots of “please come and take me out of this program”, eventually Lily is able to see that the program is helping her and she actually thanks her parents for sending her to Alpine. Alex and James attend the family session at the end of the program and can see that Lily has made great progress over the summer. Lily returns home from Alpine shortly before school commences in late August. There are more “bumps in the road” for Lily and a decision is made by Alex and James to have her change schools.
Lily thrives in the new school system with the combination of High School and Community College and graduates with a high school diploma and an Associates’ Degree from Seattle Community College. Returning the focus to Alex, she meets Tom on an arranged “blind date” and is amazed at how she glows and thrives with a new relationship. Things are definitely looking better and brighter for Alex as Tom dotes on her and displays his affection for her.
In the concluding chapters of the book, Alex and Lily spend one month in the Country of Peru on a mission trip. They both become immersed in helping to teach and love the young children who have been abandoned, mistreated, and/or abused to whom they are assigned. This experience brings Mother (Alex) and Daughter (Lily) so much closer to one another. The book ends with a happy and profound message. Alex feels blessed and states……..”I inhale a deep breath of gratitude for the wonderful life I’m blessed to have. I did it! I made it through the “bs” and am so much richer because of it. And, my journey continues.”
I highly recommend the book for persons going through a painful divorce and the emotional feelings of rejection. It would be a helpful book for both men and women and especially for those having rebellious or “acting out” teenagers! Here is a link to an interesting audio interview with the author, Sandra Vischer. The book is available at Amazon. Click here to learn more about it or to purchase it!
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.