Does an unfaithful husband, failed marriage and moving in with your parents have to be
a bad thing? Not in the case of Isabel Gillies as she recounts in her new memoir, “One Year and Six Seconds.”
The bestselling writer, Isabel Gillies is vacationing in Maine with her parents, her second husband, and her two
children from her first husband and her step-daughter. And her ex-husband. With his current wife. And their new baby. You
get the picture. Her unorthodox way of making family out of life’s lemons turned into her second memoir, A
Year and Six Seconds. By turns hilarious and sad, it chronicles the story of her moving in with her parents at the age
of 35 accompanied by her two young children and figuring out her new life while letting go of the old one. Gillies talks frankly
with The Daily Beast:
Author/actress Isabel Gillies speaks about her divorce on April 5, 2011 in New York City. Joe Corr
I was stunned at what I thought was your really generous
attitude towards your ex-husband and the woman he had an affair with—now his wife. Could you talk about how you were
able to forgive them? I didn’t write this book to be about revenge or make him or her into a devil, because I believe
in strongly there’s no such thing as good guy/bad guy. And because I have children with him, I have a very strong interest
in investigating why he’s not bad. Maybe, he didn’t handle a particular part of his life very well, but I was
married to him so clearly there are parts of him I dig. Plus, his wife puts sweaters on my kids. I really like her.
In your book, you have a scene with your ex-mother-in-law
where you ask her what is wrong with her son and you accuse her of not knowing what you’re going through. Then she shares
that her husband had once left her. Was that cathartic for you? I’m glad you brought up that chapter. A lot of the times that people think that this sort of
thing happens only to them. And it actually happens to a bunch of people. Even in your own family. And when [my ex-mother-in-law]
generously welcomed both me and my children into her house, I wanted to blame her for her son’s leaving me. And what
she said to me was to be strong. She got through her own similar situation, and [knowing this] had this effect of “Buck
up, live your life, move on.”
If you hadn’t met your second-husband and fallen
in love again, would the book’s tone have been different? It’s hard for me to speculate, because I’m still so in love. You can’t be mad at
your ex and happy about new love at the same time. It’s greedy. So, I fell in love and, and I gave myself over to it.
I’m sure people are like, “Well, if you were still single, I am sure you wouldn’t be so forgiving.”
But, before I met Peter, my ex and I were on a road to figuring out how we were going to raise our children and be around
You have a lot of humor in your book. Was that intentional?
My first book Happen Everyday
is a much sadder book, because it’s about my ex-husband’s actual leaving me. There was this scene we were all
at this brunch place, we were definitely going to get a divorce, our two kids were sick, and it was just a bummer scene. But,
then I ordered these pancakes that had Guyere and asparagus in them and took a bite and said, “Holy shit, these are
delicious.” I couldn’t stay in my misery. The pancakes were too good. Life is funny at the same time being totally
A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story. By Isabel Gillies. 256 pages. Voice. $21.99.
You have the knack for tragic comedy. Or comic tragedy. I’ve always been the
person at the table who is like, “I have this weird rash. Anybody else have this?” I remember once after my baby
was born, I was at another person’s baby shower, and I said, “When I first had my son, I had this crazy feeling
that something terrible was going to happen.” And people looked at me and were like, “How can you say that?”
I can’t believe I’m on this path writing about people that are in my family.
It must be hard for them. But, I have a very good relationship with everyone I write about, so there’s nothing in the
book that I wouldn’t say and discuss with them in person. There were some scenes in my book that I read aloud to my
ex-husband and said, “Okay, I’m just going to read these to you, and let me know if you have a problem—“
At one point he said, “You end chapters really well.” And I’m thinking, “I just wrote about your mother.”
So what made you want to write about your life in the
first place? I didn’t think anything
I wrote was going to get published. I’m a dyslexic kid who had tutors through college. But, I had a very strong impulse
to write. I dropped off my kids from 10-2, went to the library and just wrote. This is my second career—I’m 41—and
I’m a terrible speller.
You choose to include your miscarriage at the end of
your book. Did you have misgivings about it, and how it might ruin your happy ending? That’s sort of the point. Including the miscarriage was sort of my way of saying
I didn’t want to wrap up this experience and the previous book with a Tiffany blue ribbon and my new husband. Bad stuff
happens, and that’s life.