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The Poignant and Compelling Sequel to the National Bestseller A Year by the Sea

Joan Anderson

Their ultimate success will hearten fans of Anderson's unpretentious style... [A] perceptive view of a midlife crisis." -People

"[An] intimate, highly anecdotal sequel." -O, The Oprah Magazine

"Anderson sheds the soulmate myths of the past and voices the emotions that bind a man and woman together. She makes it clear that these emotions and wisdom, patience, and practice make a lifetime commitment, al long-term marriage, vital." -Booklist

"Encourages us all to take the breaks that we need to regain our emotional balance...a fulfilling chronicle." -Philadelphia Inquirer

Perceptive, eloquent, and incredibly forthright about her fears and imperfections, Joan Anderson moved and inspired countless women with her chronicle of her retreat from marriage, A Year by the Sea. Readers from coast to coast found comfort, joy, and courage in Anderson's bold decision to spend twelve solitary months at her family's spartan Cape Cod cottage, instead of following her husband to his new job. While reveling in her revitalizing journey, many have wondered what happened to Joan—and to her relationship with her husband—next.

Joan Anderson continues her deeply personal and widely resonant coming-of-age- in-middle-age story in the paperback release of AN UNFINISHED MARRIAGE (Broadway Books; On Sale: March 11, 2003; $22.95). With penetrating insight, unflinching honesty, and a gift for seeing the possibility of wonder in everyday life, Anderson traces her second spiritual and emotional odyssey: renewing her marriage after a year devoted to learning how to be completely independent, purposeful, and fulfilled alone.

Lamenting the lack of guidebooks for maintaining a long-term loving relationship after sexual passion has faded into fond memory, Anderson concludes: "There was no model to follow. We were two unique souls who merged over thirty years ago and out of that union appeared an original couple, impossible to replicate. Out of our vulnerabilities a new way of being together needed to be discovered."

Spanning eleven months of tumultuous transformation, AN UNFINISHED MARRIAGE takes place in the same location in which Anderson reclaimed her relationship with herself: a humble cottage on Cape Cod. Seizing an opportunity for early retirement, Joan's husband Robin vows to join his wife and make it his permanent home as well. Both partners share a heartfelt commitment to repairing their marriage. Before long, both partners also realize that they have taken on a formidable challenge.

For Joan and for Robin, the first months of being together again are fraught with clashes of will, vision, and ego. Striving to respect her husband's autonomy without question, Joan seethes in frustration as Robin moves the bulk of his former office into her treasured cottage. Secretly yearning to be "frank, forthright, and opinionated," she lets Robin have his space-and watches in anguish as the distance grows between them. While Robin retreats in silence and mounting depression, Joan rereads her letters and diaries from their long-ago life as newlyweds, when they shared a mission and a zest for adventure as Peace Corps workers in Africa. Soon, Joan finds herself questioning whether the "just plain dashing" man she married ever really existed.

AN UNFINISHED MARRIAGE brings a pivotal breakthrough for Joan and Robin on a joint excursion-to the town dump. While diligently sorting glass from plastic from tin, Anderson is struck by the concentration it takes to recycle-an odd thought that leads to an epiphany. "Have I been heading down the wrong path in thinking we needed to discover something that only needs recycling?" the author muses. "Perhaps if we spent equal amounts of time recycling ourselves, we might resurrect something vital and new out of the old."

While charting the meticulous process of "recycling" her marriage, Anderson reveals her many frustrations, sobering lessons, unexpected pleasures, and wonderful revelations.

Her voyage includes:

  • Receiving. When incapacitated with a broken ankle, Joan is forced to give up control-and discovers an untapped resourceful and tender side to her husband.
  • Upheaval. Inspired by Robin's ambitious plans and dramatic enthusiasm, Joan agrees to a sweeping, shattering renovation of her beloved cottage-complete with the intrusion of a television.
  • Dinner with friends. A grimly comic dinner party with three veteran couples drives home the emotional pitfalls (and horrors) on the path to a long marriage-including boredom, betrayals, and boorish behavior.
  • New frontiers in extended family. Joan reflects on the challenges of being a close, nurturing mother to distant grown-up sons-and ponders the startling news of becoming an expectant grandmother.
  • Risk and retreat. Joan and Robin culminate their mutual rebirth with two weeks in the wild-isolated from the outside world and utterly dependent on one another in a primitive shack surrounded by miles of towering sand dunes

At once intriguing and reassuring, AN UNFINISHED MARRIAGE offers a unique perspective on the hard work and ultimate meaning of "happily ever after." Writing with grace, wit, and candor, Joan Anderson reflects the changing life of couples and reveals what truly keeps a husband and wife together: intimacy and friendship.

About the Author

JOAN ANDERSON is a seasoned journalist and a highly sought-after speaker on women's issues and the role of media in our lives. In addition to her bestselling memoir, A Year by the Sea, she has written numerous children's books, including 1787: The First Thanksgiving Feast and The American Family Farm, as well as the critically acclaimed adult nonfiction book Breaking the TV Habit. Joan recently contributed a foreward to the Chicago Review Press's April 2003 release of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's bestselling novel, Dearly Beloved. Featured twice on the Oprah Show, as well as NBC-TV's Weekend TodayShow and other national TV broadcasts in connection with A Year by the Sea, she continues to inspire women from all over the country to seek times of solitude and simple living through her popular "Weekend by the Sea" retreat program. A graduate of Yale University, a veteran of the Peace Corps, and a new grandmother, she lives on Cape Cod with her husband of thirty-eight years, Robin.

By Joan Anderson
Published by Broadway Books
Price: $12.95
ISBN: 0-7679-0871-6

An Unfinished Marriage
Joan Anderson
March 2003