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Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason

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"A pathbreaking feminist manifesto, impossible to put down or dismiss. Gina Frangello tells the morally complex story of her adulterous relationship with a lover and her shortcomings as a mother, and in doing so, highlights the forces that shaped, silenced, and shamed her: everyday misogyny, puritanical expectations regarding female sexuality and maternal sacrifice, and m "A pathbreaking feminist manifesto, impossible to put down or dismiss. Gina Frangello tells the morally complex story of her adulterous relationship with a lover and her shortcomings as a mother, and in doing so, highlights the forces that shaped, silenced, and shamed her: everyday misogyny, puritanical expectations regarding female sexuality and maternal sacrifice, and male oppression." —Adrienne Brodeur, author of Wild Game Gina Frangello spent her early adulthood trying to outrun a youth marked by poverty and violence. Now a long-married wife and devoted mother, the better life she carefully built is emotionally upended by the death of her closest friend. Soon, Frangello is caught up in a recklessly passionate affair, leading a double life while continuing to project the image of the perfect family. When her secrets are finally uncovered, both her home and her identity will implode, testing the limits of desire, responsibility, love, and forgiveness. Blow Your House Down is a powerful testimony about the ways our culture seeks to cage women in traditional narratives of self-sacrifice and erasure. Frangello uses her personal story to examine the place of women in contemporary society: the violence they experience, the rage they suppress, the ways their bodies often reveal what they cannot say aloud, and finally, what it means to transgress "being good" in order to save your own life.


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"A pathbreaking feminist manifesto, impossible to put down or dismiss. Gina Frangello tells the morally complex story of her adulterous relationship with a lover and her shortcomings as a mother, and in doing so, highlights the forces that shaped, silenced, and shamed her: everyday misogyny, puritanical expectations regarding female sexuality and maternal sacrifice, and m "A pathbreaking feminist manifesto, impossible to put down or dismiss. Gina Frangello tells the morally complex story of her adulterous relationship with a lover and her shortcomings as a mother, and in doing so, highlights the forces that shaped, silenced, and shamed her: everyday misogyny, puritanical expectations regarding female sexuality and maternal sacrifice, and male oppression." —Adrienne Brodeur, author of Wild Game Gina Frangello spent her early adulthood trying to outrun a youth marked by poverty and violence. Now a long-married wife and devoted mother, the better life she carefully built is emotionally upended by the death of her closest friend. Soon, Frangello is caught up in a recklessly passionate affair, leading a double life while continuing to project the image of the perfect family. When her secrets are finally uncovered, both her home and her identity will implode, testing the limits of desire, responsibility, love, and forgiveness. Blow Your House Down is a powerful testimony about the ways our culture seeks to cage women in traditional narratives of self-sacrifice and erasure. Frangello uses her personal story to examine the place of women in contemporary society: the violence they experience, the rage they suppress, the ways their bodies often reveal what they cannot say aloud, and finally, what it means to transgress "being good" in order to save your own life.

30 review for Blow Your House Down: A Story of Family, Feminism, and Treason

  1. 4 out of 5

    lark benobi

    I love Gina Frangello for writing this book. Reading it felt like I'm Wallace Shawn in "My Dinner With Andre." Only, female. Reading it felt like I'm sitting down over a long dinner with Frangello. I wouldn't interrupt. Not even to ask questions. I'd just sit there and listen. A little stunned. Ok, maybe I'd ask her why she is so hard on herself. I might say, at some point, that she need not feel quite as guilty as she does about sleeping with another man, when the man she's married to breathes I love Gina Frangello for writing this book. Reading it felt like I'm Wallace Shawn in "My Dinner With Andre." Only, female. Reading it felt like I'm sitting down over a long dinner with Frangello. I wouldn't interrupt. Not even to ask questions. I'd just sit there and listen. A little stunned. Ok, maybe I'd ask her why she is so hard on herself. I might say, at some point, that she need not feel quite as guilty as she does about sleeping with another man, when the man she's married to breathes in his sleep in a way that makes Frangello feel like clawing paint from the walls. I can't decide if I'm allowed to laugh at some of these sentences and some of these sentiments. This book isn't funny on the same level as Gilda Radner's famously funny yet hard-hitting memoir, "It's Always Something." It's more bitter. It has a much more vicious bite. It has more righteous rage all around than Radner's book. And yet I did laugh, because Frangello made me face the truth over and over again of just how absurd these lives of ours are on this earth. All of us. All of our lives. I think Frangello would forgive me for laughing.

  2. 5 out of 5

    wynter

    Blow Your House Down is fantastic. I want to start my review with that statement because it irks me—irks me—that this memoir is getting any shade whatsoever for providing an honest account of infidelity and owning the unattractive feelings (e.g., rage, revenge, self-congratulation) associated with the human experience. That Frangello explores all three emotions (and pain, humiliation, regret—I could go on) in her searingly rendered memoir does not, Dani Shapiro, make her account “uneven.” Indeed Blow Your House Down is fantastic. I want to start my review with that statement because it irks me—irks me—that this memoir is getting any shade whatsoever for providing an honest account of infidelity and owning the unattractive feelings (e.g., rage, revenge, self-congratulation) associated with the human experience. That Frangello explores all three emotions (and pain, humiliation, regret—I could go on) in her searingly rendered memoir does not, Dani Shapiro, make her account “uneven.” Indeed, that Blow “fairly drips with rage” is not a flaw; it’s an asset. All of that said, this review is not a review of Shapiro’s New York Times review (zero stars!). Gina Frangello is talented—this isn’t just a great memoir (by which I mean, “interesting things happened to the memoirist”), this is great writing. Frangello plays with her prose. She experiments with her format. And, at the end, she performs a truly skillful sleight of hand that forces the reader to consider: Who’s writing this story? If Frangello had done any one of these things as well as she did, I would have given this book 3 stars. She did all 3. A final note: it matters not at all what I (or Shapiro) think of Frangello and her decisions. But—ladies and gentlemen of the jury—I move to acquit. 5 stars Favorite lines [My father] believed I didn’t understand loyalty. I believe that, too. I believed loyalty was a trap. … I wanted a life based on betrayals and escapes … … I grew up with the mistaken impression that cleverness could exempt me from anything, but middle age teaches nothing if not the lesson that nobody is exempt. If Angie was your model for learning to hide your pain, to obscure it behind bravado and swaggering charisma, then Kathy, like a woman in a Jean Rhys novel, wears her suffering like a heavy coat she never takes off … If Angie always seemed like flint, then Kathy is a perpetually wounded bird who (literally) bruises easily: an embodied litany of mistreatment and bad luck and windowless basement offices and public transportation and drinking alone in the dark while listening to other doomed women like Billie Holiday. Kathy often strikes you as a cautionary tale of what happens when women confuse their suffering for identity—internalizing that malaise is what makes them interesting. The more you watch her performing her (very real) pain, the more your own reflexive smile remains plastered to your face. Kathy is … interesting, yes—you have written a couple of stories based on her fucked-up life—but she is often seen as pathetic or desperate by men and even by her own girlfriends. If [all of this] taught you anything, it is to be allergic to pity. (describing the difference between two childhood friends—and between different mechanisms of coping) There is only way to tell the truth, but there are myriad ways to live a lie. … freedom is only ever a fall without a net. Only people who also live with pain want to know anything about that narrative—most others are spending far too much energy pretending to themselves that it will never happen to them, and assigning value judgments to those who are sick to determine what that person may have done to “invite” the problem (if not outright deserve it). Everyone loves a redemption story, and chronic pain (not to mention terminal illness) fails to offer a fix for that craving. “Betrayal trauma,” which is often associated with the discovery of a partner’s infidelities may not include a danger of physical violence, but it is now widely accepted in the field of psychology as producing the same symptoms of classic post-traumatic stress disorder, and many therapists include this syndrome under the same treatment umbrella.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Cathleen

    This memoir is unique in its style, its blunt anger, and something a little less tangible that I can’t quite put my finger on. Like many memoirs, it definitely falls into the oversharing category and I found myself feeling a bit sorry for, angry for, and / or ashamed for people who would recognize themselves in this narrative. There’s a lot to stomach here, from infidelity to foreign adoptions, violence against women to mental illness, divorce to cancer. It’s so raw that at times left me feeling This memoir is unique in its style, its blunt anger, and something a little less tangible that I can’t quite put my finger on. Like many memoirs, it definitely falls into the oversharing category and I found myself feeling a bit sorry for, angry for, and / or ashamed for people who would recognize themselves in this narrative. There’s a lot to stomach here, from infidelity to foreign adoptions, violence against women to mental illness, divorce to cancer. It’s so raw that at times left me feeling a bit chafed.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Schulman

    I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review This woman has had a very crappy life and it took me a while to figure out where the feminism was. But it hit me. Women devote their lives to caretaking. To their families. After their children are born, they let their fires go out. So her argument that an affair is in a revolutionary tracks to a degree. 3.5 and very depressing

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karol

    Passion, tears, and wit. This is a compelling book. Well written but some aspects of the author's life were so intense that I wanted the book to wrap it up halfway through. Enough! But no, there were more chapters ahead, each with its own challenges. Reading each led to renewed engagement and more thoughts provoked. How do we make room for a woman's anger without distorting our understanding of the whole person that constitutes that woman? Can we consider this life story in dialogue with Melissa Passion, tears, and wit. This is a compelling book. Well written but some aspects of the author's life were so intense that I wanted the book to wrap it up halfway through. Enough! But no, there were more chapters ahead, each with its own challenges. Reading each led to renewed engagement and more thoughts provoked. How do we make room for a woman's anger without distorting our understanding of the whole person that constitutes that woman? Can we consider this life story in dialogue with Melissa Febos ' recent "Girlhood ", itself a strong contribution to refreshing our thinking about being female in these times? How about Lidia Yuknavitch's "Chronology of Water?" How does her celebration of the body help us center our thinking ? In what ways are we challenged to metabolize our experiences ( as well as those of our fore-mothers) with candor and passion while caring for ourselves and our loved ones? All three of these great female writers illustrate writing as a way of excavating truths. It has been a long time since I stayed up into the night wanting to keep reading to complete a book. Finally, reading completed, I felt a calm. Maybe I could rest more easily since these strong women do such a heroic job of helping articulate aspects of female experience.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    This book is like the car crash that you can't stop yourself from gawking at. It made me feel a little dirty or contaminated for knowing so much about another person's messy, messed up, and contradictory life. It made me think too much more than I cared to think about such things as how do kids of parents who divulge too much, feel about that and about themselves? How much honesty is too much and how much honesty is just ego driven puffery? As Frangello says herself, it's no fun participating in This book is like the car crash that you can't stop yourself from gawking at. It made me feel a little dirty or contaminated for knowing so much about another person's messy, messed up, and contradictory life. It made me think too much more than I cared to think about such things as how do kids of parents who divulge too much, feel about that and about themselves? How much honesty is too much and how much honesty is just ego driven puffery? As Frangello says herself, it's no fun participating in others' too much emotional or physical pain. It's no fun.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lisa M.

    Frangello lays herself bare in this memoir. Not only does she explore her affair in rich detail, she shows us all of herself. Throughout this book she often makes meta comments about the nature of memoir--how memory and her own biases color the work. There is no doubt that humans are subjective and that there is no way she could have written about such an emotional topic objectively. Yet, I still feel Frangello was able to show us all of herself. This book often shifts in time and perspective an Frangello lays herself bare in this memoir. Not only does she explore her affair in rich detail, she shows us all of herself. Throughout this book she often makes meta comments about the nature of memoir--how memory and her own biases color the work. There is no doubt that humans are subjective and that there is no way she could have written about such an emotional topic objectively. Yet, I still feel Frangello was able to show us all of herself. This book often shifts in time and perspective and we learn not only facts about different parts of her life, but who she is as a person. There is good and there is bad here. This book certainly reeks of older, white feminism at times, especially through pandering comments at the end. Frangello even acknowledges this, somewhat flippantly, in the opening of her story. There is also a flavor of 'rich people problems' here as we read page after page about Frangello's extensively lived, travelled life. Despite these negative aspects and a tone that often feels tongue-in-cheek, rather than genuine, about these aspects, Frangello does what a memoirist should--she's honest. While the book at times feels repetitive, it is because Frangello spent years circling her affair partner before making the ultimate decision about their relationship. While this grows old, it still serves its purpose of portraying her affair. Now, many people could debate if Frangello's actions were feminist or not, but she often brings gender theory into the conversation. Often, this is insightful and awesome, but sometimes feels like we're reading a memoir by someone who has spent too much time in academic circles. Yet, even Frangello processes this as she slowly realizes that the affairs she has read about in books do not mirror her own, which destroyed her husband. Frangello is certainly an interesting memoirist in her complex portrayal of herself. I found myself not condemning her actions but found her expectations of her husband unrealistic and cruel. I really resonated with parts of this book, the ideas of how women are socialized to interpret male aggression as affection. It made me consider my own relationships. I also really enjoyed Frangello's comments on perception. As we begin the book, her husband sounds like a monster, until she injects a few pages of the things she had loved about him, or that were redeeming enough to make her think she loved him. In contrast, her affair partner is portrayed in positive ways until she portrays him as a more complex character. This shift in perspective and her side comments processing it was really interesting for me and made me think about how books, let alone our own internal stories, are shaped by this type of perspective. I really appreciated this. This is a complex, difficult book that examines one woman's experiences with a stigmatized behavior. She's imperfect and flawed and doesn't argue anything differently. She is aggressively honest and I found myself shocked she would detail the sex she had with her affair partner while her living ex-husband and children can read. It begs the question, what is selfishness? Should Frangello have stayed silent to provide her family some respite by her consistent actions? I've decided that I'm not sure, but that it shouldn't impact my review of this book anyway.

  8. 4 out of 5

    MountainShelby

    HiFrangello is a compelling writer, and I inhaled this book. Now that I've got the accolades out of the way...there's something rather dated about this memoir, and its list of adulterous heroines on page 1, while off-putting to me at first (who does the author think she is?) turned out to be more relevant than I'd expected. This is a story about a woman who gives up her power, ping ponging from man to man, daddy, hubby, lover, never gaining a foothold of her own. Even when she finally gets a job HiFrangello is a compelling writer, and I inhaled this book. Now that I've got the accolades out of the way...there's something rather dated about this memoir, and its list of adulterous heroines on page 1, while off-putting to me at first (who does the author think she is?) turned out to be more relevant than I'd expected. This is a story about a woman who gives up her power, ping ponging from man to man, daddy, hubby, lover, never gaining a foothold of her own. Even when she finally gets a job, who does she dream of telling? Dad. This co-dependent reliance on men, emotionally, financially, physically, really was off-putting as the author creates and recreates more drama oscillating between hubs and kinky lover boy. Instead of grabbing her girls and...oh I don't know...trekking Nepal... she instead cringes in the shadows of men, taking financial support (and amazing trips and a life free of a grinding job) for herself and her parents from one and bemoaning the financial inadequacies of the other. Even the cancer diagnosis, which offered some hope for her to rally and rise from genuine rather than self-created misfortune, instead becomes one of a long litany of illnesses. And hey, let's not forget the title of this memoir, quoth the wolf, not little red riding hood. Even the title of the memoir is the provenance of a male. I'm a few years older than the author. I married the same year she did to an extremely ambitious and attractive man. I quickly realized I'd made a mistake, divorced him, worked three unglamorous and exhausting jobs to pay off the divorce settlement, then my mountain home, then continued with a solid career and extensive travel and achievements funded by and depending on no one but myself. The list of heroines on page one, in addition to being fiction, all had something critically important that separates them from women like Frangello and me. They had limited options: marriage, motherhood, maybe teaching, governessing, or entering a convent. Our options as women today are almost limitless. A memoir about a clearly intelligent if not brilliant woman who cheats on her financially stable but emotionally volatile husband in favor of an emotionally fragile and financially unstable/emotionally unavailable lover (who texts love notes to his wife in the author's bed)--and suffers all the way through-- is about as fresh as yesterday's banana peel. And as important. At the end, she re-enters the traditional role she's been railing against. She goes back to where she began, "And just like that, I will be a wife again." The words drip with smugness. Safely married and loved and cared for, at least for the time being, she's right back where she started.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stevie Trujillo

    I'm stunned. This book blew me away. I read the first chapter in LitHub and was intrigued. Then I read the NYTBR--which accused Frangello of being ragey and therefore an unreliable narrator--and decided I had to read the book for myself. When I was a young girl, my mother warned me that as a feminist, I'd be called ugly, a bitch, and crazy. Though Shapiro is too classy to use those words, her review gave off more than a whiff of this tired tactic, which surprised me. After reading the book, I co I'm stunned. This book blew me away. I read the first chapter in LitHub and was intrigued. Then I read the NYTBR--which accused Frangello of being ragey and therefore an unreliable narrator--and decided I had to read the book for myself. When I was a young girl, my mother warned me that as a feminist, I'd be called ugly, a bitch, and crazy. Though Shapiro is too classy to use those words, her review gave off more than a whiff of this tired tactic, which surprised me. After reading the book, I completely disagree with Shapiro's review. Yes, Frangello is angry--at herself, at the patriarchy, at her neighborhood, at violent men, at her husband--but, she is fiercely compassionate, which heavily outweighs the anger. Her compassion works like light through a crystal. She turns her life around in her hand so that the full spectrum of understanding is rendered on the page. This book is the opposite of "angry" in the narrow, unreliable sense Shapiro meant. It's not even just a feminist text. It's HUMAN. And if you read closely, you'll see that it's more a love letter to humanity than a diatribe. I am married and have never cheated on my husband, but I felt seen by this book and, yes, loved--not for who I'm supposed to be but for who I am in all my potentiality. For the range of my humanity. For the lives and choices I didn't make but could. Like Milan Kundera, who she references many times, this book paints an honest and unflinching account of human relationships in their true, messy context. Frangello is Teresa, Sabina and Tomas all rolled up in one, but aren't we all? Also, I worried that given the content it might be too heavy, too dark, too much authorial voice and that is definitely not the case. Frangello packs her brilliance in a page-turning narrative. Her life might've been heavy and messy but her telling of it isn't. It reads like a lively, rich conversation with a loving, intelligent, fair-minded friend. In the end, you walk away with a nuanced understanding and compassion for everyone in the story, including yourself, dear reader. I live in Spain, so I only read on my tablet which normally doesn't bother me, but this book is so good that I wish I had a hard copy sitting on a bookshelf to pull down every now and then, just to hold it close and remember how it made me feel to read it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zibby Owens

    The book is a hybrid of memoir and cultural criticism. It's about the messy intersections of a middle-aged woman going off the rails in different ways, some self-imposed. The author has an extramarital affair, and her best friend dies of ovarian cancer, which are the catalysts of the story. Shortly after she leaves her marriage, her father dies, and she's diagnosed with a bunch of medical issues like cancer, hip problems, and chronic pain—all while parenting three kids. This book relays these ev The book is a hybrid of memoir and cultural criticism. It's about the messy intersections of a middle-aged woman going off the rails in different ways, some self-imposed. The author has an extramarital affair, and her best friend dies of ovarian cancer, which are the catalysts of the story. Shortly after she leaves her marriage, her father dies, and she's diagnosed with a bunch of medical issues like cancer, hip problems, and chronic pain—all while parenting three kids. This book relays these events of her life and looks deeply at the author's experience of them, how they came to be, and the role of women in psychiatry. The book touches on the central theme of what happens to women over forty who don't remain in a "happily-ever-after" state of mind. One passage grabbed me when the author writes, "In that Schrodinger's box of uncertainty, my entire life is contained. In that in-between space, I am both having and not having an affair. Kathy is both living and dead. When I wake in my hotel bed alone two hours behind Chicago time, Kathy has already been carried away in the cart of my father's dreams. That morning before the phone call comes from my fiancé; I dwell on the relative peace of my frantic, overly busy life for the last time before descending into the throes of both grief and feral lust, a dangerous state for a woman, one that makes her feel self-immolating and invincible at once. Kathy, Emily's son, my father, and the woman I thought I was watching us all shoot brief and bright against the same vast sky one last time. Vibrant, singular, miraculously ordinary, full of love and pain, we flash. Then one by one, we are out." So good. To listen to my interview with the author, go to my podcast at: https://zibbyowens.com/transcript/gin...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brooke Stouffer

    REVIEW: Blow Your House Down by Gina Frangello Thank you to Gina Frangello, Counterpoint Press, and NetGalley for an eARC of “Blow Your House Down” in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis from NetGalley: “Gina Frangello spent her early adulthood trying to outrun a youth marked by poverty and violence. Now a long-married wife and devoted mother, the better life she carefully built is emotionally upended by the death of her closest friend. Soon, awakened to fault lines in her troubled marriage, F REVIEW: Blow Your House Down by Gina Frangello Thank you to Gina Frangello, Counterpoint Press, and NetGalley for an eARC of “Blow Your House Down” in exchange for an honest review. Synopsis from NetGalley: “Gina Frangello spent her early adulthood trying to outrun a youth marked by poverty and violence. Now a long-married wife and devoted mother, the better life she carefully built is emotionally upended by the death of her closest friend. Soon, awakened to fault lines in her troubled marriage, Frangello is caught up in a recklessly passionate affair, leading a double life while continuing to project the image of the perfect family. When her secrets are finally uncovered, both her home and her identity will implode, testing the limits of desire, responsibility, love, and forgiveness.” “Blow Your House Down” is a memoir that deeply challenges the black and white perspective that we normally have when we view infidelity. Frangello throws you into the tangled grey of her life that is captured alongside her affair with her lover. This book is beautifully and powerfully written as it explores patriarchal standards set for women, the concept of the perfect family, and the trauma endured by women. It’s a love story to motherhood and an acceptance of our individual shortcomings. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what I would think starting this book, but Frangello’s writing is so engrossing and visual. I feel like I could easily see this book translated to some kind of stage adaption. She expertly makes you question yourself, and then question yourself again. If you’re looking for a non-linear memoir that makes you think, “Blow Your House Down” is an excellent choice! “Blow Your House Down” will be published April 6th, 2021.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elissa Wald

    I have been a fan of Gina Frangello for a long time -- I have loved her work for close to a decade. And yet. Blow Your House Down, which is coming in April, is something else again. Let me try to describe the experience of reading it. On the very first page, my skin started to tingle with excitement. This tingling intensified throughout the extraordinary first chapter. Soon it seriously felt as if a psychic cloud of bees had surrounded me. I kept saying: oh my God, oh my God, oh my GOD. Would you pos I have been a fan of Gina Frangello for a long time -- I have loved her work for close to a decade. And yet. Blow Your House Down, which is coming in April, is something else again. Let me try to describe the experience of reading it. On the very first page, my skin started to tingle with excitement. This tingling intensified throughout the extraordinary first chapter. Soon it seriously felt as if a psychic cloud of bees had surrounded me. I kept saying: oh my God, oh my God, oh my GOD. Would you possibly believe me if I said this level of excitement, breathlessness, euphoria, sheer awe was somehow unflaggingly sustained over more than 350 pages? Here is something that will sound hyperbolic but is the literal truth: after more than 50 years of reading everything in sight, or trying to, I have never, ever read a book I admire more than this one. After years and years of being really, really good, in my opinion Gina has become a true master. I see this as belonging with writers like Alice Munro and Toni Morrison and Kazuo Ishiguro and Colson Whitehead and David Foster Wallace in the very, very top tier of the finest contemporary lit. The stratosphere. Blow Your House Down is a memoir about – if it had to be condensed to a tagline – leaving her longtime husband for her lover. It is also Shakespearean in its depth and breadth in terms of all else it touches on and it is at once gorgeously, profoundly erotic AND feminist. It has already received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. May you hear it here first: this is the very, very least of what this book is going to get if there is any justice whatsoever in this world.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    I intended to purchase this book because I'm familiar with the author's other writing. However, I wouldn't have gotten around to reading it for a while as my book queue is long at the moment. That is until I read the mean-spirited NYT review. A review so seemingly unhinged that I had to see for myself what the reviewer was all tied up in knots about. The answer is the reviewer must have a black belt in projection because I feel like we read two separate books. I talked about this book so much wh I intended to purchase this book because I'm familiar with the author's other writing. However, I wouldn't have gotten around to reading it for a while as my book queue is long at the moment. That is until I read the mean-spirited NYT review. A review so seemingly unhinged that I had to see for myself what the reviewer was all tied up in knots about. The answer is the reviewer must have a black belt in projection because I feel like we read two separate books. I talked about this book so much while reading it that my husband asked if he could read it after me. I was thrilled because I think there are several great insights about male/female, husband/wife dynamics that I wish every man would read about. As a divorcee with caregiving responsibilities and who also blew my own house down, I identified with much of the story the author tells, especially her depictions of male anger, female desire, and mothering through a marital crisis. Oh, and the treason part of the subtitle, as well. It refers to how adulterous women are all too often thought of as treasonous. When I left my alcoholic husband, a dear friend of mine's husband forbade her from associating with me. Certain moms at my kids' school wouldn't make eye contact or talk to me any longer. Meanwhile, friends' whose husbands had had affairs weren't being cast out of any social circles so far as I could tell. I'm not easily shocked, but a few parts of the story had me covering my mouth until I stopped to realize I'd done almost exactly the same during my marriage and that my response was one conditioned by societal expectations of women that even, I self-proclaimed feminist, inhabit and have yet to unlearn. I've recommended this book to others going through breakups they initiated. One texted me yesterday, "Haven't even got to Chapter One and I'm already hooked! Thanks so much for the recommendation!" Some have called this an "experimental" memoir because the author uses some uncommon literary devices, but I didn't find it all that out of the ordinary. On the contrary, the she lays out the pros and cons of the "case" of her divorce rather like a prosecutor and defense attorney would. There are some parts that are bulleted and other parts that read like a manifesto all of which had the effect of keeping me, the reader, engaged. I will go back and re-read my highlighted sections of this book again and again for resolve and strength as needed. It is that empowering.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Candace

    I’ve never read a memoir quite like this one – honest, fierce, complicated. She has lived her life with an intensity I have seldom experienced. There were some beautiful sections. Like the chapter Big Blonde about her friend Kathy and when her father, during a rare lucid moment late in life, apologizes for not having supported her determination to take a path of her own leading away from the neighborhood where he’d lived all his life to “some kind of life I didn’t know there was”. The only probl I’ve never read a memoir quite like this one – honest, fierce, complicated. She has lived her life with an intensity I have seldom experienced. There were some beautiful sections. Like the chapter Big Blonde about her friend Kathy and when her father, during a rare lucid moment late in life, apologizes for not having supported her determination to take a path of her own leading away from the neighborhood where he’d lived all his life to “some kind of life I didn’t know there was”. The only problem I had with the narrative was her sharing so much about her S&M sex life. She could have given the readers a strong sense of the intensity of her relationship with her lover without so many of those intimate details. I kept thinking about her children (and their friends) reading this book and their trying to understand how inflicting physical pain can be a valued part of a loving relationship. I’m 69 years old and I struggle to understand that dynamic! Not passing judgment, just a complex conversation perhaps best done in private with her children. Her life for the last 20 years has certainly been full of pain and challenges which at times were harrowing to read. But I came away admiring her courage to face life head-on and wishing her well. Thanks to Counterpoint Press and Goodreads for the free copy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jeannine Ouellette

    I devoured this book as if it were written just for me. The incisive, fiery intelligence of Frangello's research-infused prose took my breath away as she disassembled, one brick at a time, the ways in which systemic misogyny informs women's experiences not only within marriage and motherhood, but also within their own bodies as we navigate what it means to want and why we're not allowed to. The story itself is gorgeously told with a narrator who is so fully human, so transparent and generous, th I devoured this book as if it were written just for me. The incisive, fiery intelligence of Frangello's research-infused prose took my breath away as she disassembled, one brick at a time, the ways in which systemic misogyny informs women's experiences not only within marriage and motherhood, but also within their own bodies as we navigate what it means to want and why we're not allowed to. The story itself is gorgeously told with a narrator who is so fully human, so transparent and generous, that it's impossible not to trust her completely. It was also impossible for this reader not to sympathize with her deeply. I was ready to follow her anywwhere. As far as structure, what Frangello has done is, in a word, breathtaking. The complexity and ingenuity of her use of direct address, hermit crab form, and braiding coalesce to create a narrative that becomes the best thing a story can really be, which is more than the sum of its parts. Beautiful, unforgettable, and revolutionary. Brava!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan Aurinko

    A Page-turner of a Memoir Gina Frangello, a writer whom I admire tremendously for her strength as a novelist has written a memoir that outruns any of her fiction in its bravery and honesty. The courage of this beautifully truthful book is unrivaled in recent memory. It is a book that lays bare the inner life of a woman in a way that is close to the heart of any woman who has lived a full life, because life, as we know, is never as pretty as it seems to others. Life is messy, life is painful, life is A Page-turner of a Memoir Gina Frangello, a writer whom I admire tremendously for her strength as a novelist has written a memoir that outruns any of her fiction in its bravery and honesty. The courage of this beautifully truthful book is unrivaled in recent memory. It is a book that lays bare the inner life of a woman in a way that is close to the heart of any woman who has lived a full life, because life, as we know, is never as pretty as it seems to others. Life is messy, life is painful, life is sometimes very ugly, and Frangello unflinchingly turns her eye, and words, to those truths and sets them down on paper for the world to see. Her admissions of guilt touch us all and give us a sister in our transgressions, a friend in empathy for our own foibles. This is a strong book, a rare book, a courageous book, and it will sing through my days and dreams for a long time to come.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Angie Jenkins

    This is a story about betrayal & humanity. I have so much ambivalence around this book! On the one hand, I love the bravery & defiance of a memoir that is transparent and vastly differs from the typical self aggrandizing self discovery journey in which the only flaws are quirky and ultimately benign. This is a book full of insight and honest accountability for some awful things. I’m a little in awe of that. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy reading this. It reminded me a lot of something I once h This is a story about betrayal & humanity. I have so much ambivalence around this book! On the one hand, I love the bravery & defiance of a memoir that is transparent and vastly differs from the typical self aggrandizing self discovery journey in which the only flaws are quirky and ultimately benign. This is a book full of insight and honest accountability for some awful things. I’m a little in awe of that. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy reading this. It reminded me a lot of something I once heard about a terribly bleak indie film- that medicine is supposed to taste bad & the film was supposed to make you explore that feeling... but that’s just not typically for me. So, I’m left uncertain how to rate this. It certainly accomplished what I think it set out to, and the writing was excellent but I never want to read it again. ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️/5 Thank you so much Netgalley & Counterpoint Press for this eArc!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Never have I read such a captivating, wrenching, and emotional memoir centered around an affair, a subject that typically brings judgemental grimaces and disdain. Frangello had long been part of a loveless marriage that included mentally taxing outrages and even the occasional push from her husband, but these buildups weighed on her more and more as she reluctantly falls into a clandestine romance she has never felt with such intensity before with a man referenced only as "her lover". Within the Never have I read such a captivating, wrenching, and emotional memoir centered around an affair, a subject that typically brings judgemental grimaces and disdain. Frangello had long been part of a loveless marriage that included mentally taxing outrages and even the occasional push from her husband, but these buildups weighed on her more and more as she reluctantly falls into a clandestine romance she has never felt with such intensity before with a man referenced only as "her lover". Within the confines of her marriage, secrets, and illness, Frangello weaves much speculation and reflection on family, infidelity, chronic pain, and patriarchal double standards in the powerful and salacious Blow Your House Down.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    3.5 stars. Some of these interlocking essays are fabulous and read like stories. Others are more stream-of-consciousness or facts interlaced with story. I wanted to know more about the evolution of the affair and the devolution of the marriage beyond what was shown, but I don't know how much more the author could have shared without it becoming something other than what she intended. I thought the essays about her parents and her childhood were more fleshed out. Maybe more time and processing was 3.5 stars. Some of these interlocking essays are fabulous and read like stories. Others are more stream-of-consciousness or facts interlaced with story. I wanted to know more about the evolution of the affair and the devolution of the marriage beyond what was shown, but I don't know how much more the author could have shared without it becoming something other than what she intended. I thought the essays about her parents and her childhood were more fleshed out. Maybe more time and processing was needed for the marriage, affair, divorce to simmer to a fine stew since only a handful of years have passed since these events happened. I'm thankful to have read the book. Frangello is one of my favorite authors.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Slater

    Gina Frangello's memoir is hyperliterate, cleverly constructed, and completely compelling. It's an account of her affair that wrecked her family and a chronicle of lifelong suffering inflicted by multiple debilitating illnesses and the rage of men. Is she a reliable narrator? Does she portray everyone who hurt her fairly? Does she ever truly come to grips with all she did and had done to her? Not important. Because this is writing at its most urgent best. Rather than judge her, I preferred to fe Gina Frangello's memoir is hyperliterate, cleverly constructed, and completely compelling. It's an account of her affair that wrecked her family and a chronicle of lifelong suffering inflicted by multiple debilitating illnesses and the rage of men. Is she a reliable narrator? Does she portray everyone who hurt her fairly? Does she ever truly come to grips with all she did and had done to her? Not important. Because this is writing at its most urgent best. Rather than judge her, I preferred to feel thankful for the privilege of getting a glimpse into the mind of someone willing to lay bare her desperate struggles to make sense of being an imperfect person living an imperfect life in a very, very imperfect world--even knowing that such a blessing will ever lay just beyond her grasp.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Annagrace

    As the jacket description tells us, this is first of all a book about a married woman’s passionate and life-altering affair. But this a stunning and forceful work that goes well beyond memoir. Blow Your House Down is a book about power, gender, pain, illness, love, sex, healing, and the social and narrative structures we accept and use to harm ourselves and others. This is a book of radical interrogation and fierce truth-telling. It’s a book that could radicalize you in service of your own liber As the jacket description tells us, this is first of all a book about a married woman’s passionate and life-altering affair. But this a stunning and forceful work that goes well beyond memoir. Blow Your House Down is a book about power, gender, pain, illness, love, sex, healing, and the social and narrative structures we accept and use to harm ourselves and others. This is a book of radical interrogation and fierce truth-telling. It’s a book that could radicalize you in service of your own liberation, and I don’t for one minute mean that in some vapid, foamy, romantic way. All I can say is read it and see what happens

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    violence (against women), adultery, responsibility, parenting, passion, (female) (chronic) illness, death and loss. social advancement, coming from a rough neighbourhood. mental health, caring for parents, a psychotic father. middle age. unlearning fear and hiding. failing, succeeding. (view spoiler)[I was QUITE annoyed with how she talked about her mothers aid when the mother died. mentioning they suspected the aid might not have legal status and then implying some fault in the nurse for not not violence (against women), adultery, responsibility, parenting, passion, (female) (chronic) illness, death and loss. social advancement, coming from a rough neighbourhood. mental health, caring for parents, a psychotic father. middle age. unlearning fear and hiding. failing, succeeding. (view spoiler)[I was QUITE annoyed with how she talked about her mothers aid when the mother died. mentioning they suspected the aid might not have legal status and then implying some fault in the nurse for not noticing the death sooner. ≈"she might have even slept or been on her phone during that time" (hide spoiler)]

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Reed

    Gina Frangello's deeply personal memoir is an honest look at the responsibilities so many women shoulder and the courage it takes to break out of expected social roles. The author's love for her parents, her children, her friends, her husband, her work and her lover are palpable heartbeats throughout the book. At first, jumping from one period of time to another was a jolt, but the style portrayed life as it really is- not a chronological timeline- but as moments in the present that flash back t Gina Frangello's deeply personal memoir is an honest look at the responsibilities so many women shoulder and the courage it takes to break out of expected social roles. The author's love for her parents, her children, her friends, her husband, her work and her lover are palpable heartbeats throughout the book. At first, jumping from one period of time to another was a jolt, but the style portrayed life as it really is- not a chronological timeline- but as moments in the present that flash back to the past and bounce into the future, people in the moment who trigger unexpected thoughts and reactions, and love that ebbs and flows depending on the tides of the present. Brava!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Janilyn Kocher

    Reading the book left me with mixed emotions. It was sad and depressing to read the author implode her marriage and family for an affair with a man who was rather high maintenance himself. I wasn’t shocked by what I read but the author attempts to justify her actions, then take full responsibility, and then proselytize on other subjects. Much of the hardship she endured was stressful to read, including her elderly parent’s decline and her own health issues. One question I kept wondering was is i Reading the book left me with mixed emotions. It was sad and depressing to read the author implode her marriage and family for an affair with a man who was rather high maintenance himself. I wasn’t shocked by what I read but the author attempts to justify her actions, then take full responsibility, and then proselytize on other subjects. Much of the hardship she endured was stressful to read, including her elderly parent’s decline and her own health issues. One question I kept wondering was is it worth it. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the early copy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zoe Zolbrod

    Most of us know what we SHOULD do. But then our lives roll on, our relationships multiply and become more complex, and the conditions of our lives require concessions. Which ones do we make? Which ones do we resist? How can we live with ourselves either way? In an age where we tend to look at everyone and everything through a binary lens, Frangello uses her striking intellect to lay bare the million contradictions in herself and our culture. This book challenged and enthralled me. I'll be thinki Most of us know what we SHOULD do. But then our lives roll on, our relationships multiply and become more complex, and the conditions of our lives require concessions. Which ones do we make? Which ones do we resist? How can we live with ourselves either way? In an age where we tend to look at everyone and everything through a binary lens, Frangello uses her striking intellect to lay bare the million contradictions in herself and our culture. This book challenged and enthralled me. I'll be thinking and talking about it for years.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brighton

    I haven't really read anything like this before, but it was excellent! I loved how refreshingly honest the author is, her story is captivating, emotional, and perfectly encapsulates how misogyny and the patriarchy influence and shape women's relationships with parents, spouses, and children. I enjoy how she takes full responsibility for her actions as well, as opposed to blaming them on those around her. A very intense read, but poses lots of important questions about life, what's expected of us I haven't really read anything like this before, but it was excellent! I loved how refreshingly honest the author is, her story is captivating, emotional, and perfectly encapsulates how misogyny and the patriarchy influence and shape women's relationships with parents, spouses, and children. I enjoy how she takes full responsibility for her actions as well, as opposed to blaming them on those around her. A very intense read, but poses lots of important questions about life, what's expected of us, and reflecting on our own journies.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    An intensely personal, very angry memoir about Frangello's affair and demise of her marriage and her family. It was interesting but also squirmy in an "omg I can't believe she's laying all this out there" way. I can see how it is hard to lay judgements aside - especially when Frangello is framing her personal life within the rubics of feminism. Sometimes it makes perfect sense and sometimes I felt like well... wait a minute, sounds like you're just trying to justify/absolve yourself. But then sh An intensely personal, very angry memoir about Frangello's affair and demise of her marriage and her family. It was interesting but also squirmy in an "omg I can't believe she's laying all this out there" way. I can see how it is hard to lay judgements aside - especially when Frangello is framing her personal life within the rubics of feminism. Sometimes it makes perfect sense and sometimes I felt like well... wait a minute, sounds like you're just trying to justify/absolve yourself. But then she is also the hardest on herself. So. Definitely a rollercoaster read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alice Kuijf

    I read a long excerpt of her book and found every sentence gripping and specifying truths I knew to be correct but had never seen described as poignantly as this. Yes, I thought, this is the way it is and was. I disagree with Dani Shapiros criticism in the New York Times of 4 hours ago.. I haven't read feminist books for years; had no need to read about the status quo. But this book I'll buy and I am 73! I read a long excerpt of her book and found every sentence gripping and specifying truths I knew to be correct but had never seen described as poignantly as this. Yes, I thought, this is the way it is and was. I disagree with Dani Shapiros criticism in the New York Times of 4 hours ago.. I haven't read feminist books for years; had no need to read about the status quo. But this book I'll buy and I am 73!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sophie

    Searing, honest, brutal, and beautiful. The truth of women’s raw desires and betrayals is often disguised as “fiction.” Gina Frangello’s memoir gives us what feels like an unfiltered and unflinching glimpse into her inner world across decades, with details that most writers would not dare share as nonfiction. She plays with time and perspective (her self in the moment, her self looking back, prior generations of women) in ways I’ll be studying for years to come. Phenomenal.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Melissa McGowan

    Blow Your House Down was captivating and brutal. The author’s unflinching honesty and self examination are breathtaking and I could not put this book down. It is also so much more than the raw retelling of her self immolation as a wife, and her emergence from a crushing series of life changes. Her feminist analysis begins like a whisper, or a tap on the shoulder, but culminates in a tsunami that rearranges the landscape.

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