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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
If She Let Go of My Hand by John D. Wattson weren’t about such a serious subject, and weren’t so full of pain, this memoir would make a great sitcom. But funny it isn’t, as there’s nothing funny about getting divorced after 33 years and three children, and that’s just one of the reasons John D. Wattson wrote She Let Go of My Hand. He wrote it for the 60% of married couples who have, or will experience, the trauma…and in this case…the drama of divorce. He also wrote it, I believe, to deal with his pain, to get it off his chest so he could move forward completely. For John, writing this memoir was cathartic.
As he wisely states at the beginning of She Let Go of My Hand, there’s always two sides to a divorce, his and hers. I’m sure if his ex-wife, whom he names Veeby, were to give us her side of this story, it would be vastly different. But one thing they would have to agree on, though Veeby never saw John this way, is that he was indeed a dog and not a cat. What’s that got to do with anything? Well, Veeby, who was very fond of notes, letters, journalling, and analysing everything and everybody, especially John, once wrote that “John is a cat who tried to be a dog…and a dog is what I want.” If John’s side of the story is to be believed, John was her dog: he loved her, put up with her moods, screaming, insults and abuse, but never left her side. He was her faithful companion and he didn’t want the divorce, despite their hardships. Coming from a religious background, his vows meant something to him and divorce wasn’t up for consideration. But in the end, she gave him no alternative.
This book has lots of capitalized printing. It helps the reader to hear the shouting that must have gone on. It also helps depict John’s frustration with his unstable partner. There are full court transcripts of proceedings: Veeby had no less than five lawyers throughout this divorce. John was his own lawyer. Veeby had a quickie marriage in Vegas and kept it secret from everyone for six months. She holidayed in France and elsewhere and all the while cried poverty. And after it was all over, five or more years later, John still wanted them to be friends, ever the faithful dog.
While I enjoyed…if that’s the right word…learning about what goes on and what goes wrong during divorce proceedings (something I hope never to endure), the best part of this book for me came near the end where John shares some beautiful, insightful bits of wisdom applicable to many situations and all kinds of people. He describes himself as one who espoused “extreme acceptance” ie. the philosophy of accepting “others for who they are and for who they are not”; of accepting that “all things must end”; and agreeing “to not ask unanswerable questions.” He is actually grateful that he has the strength to accept what life threw at him and “stay civil and loving” toward Veeby. He has forgiven her and hopes she can one day do the same for him as, by forgiving, he is now able to move on. I hope, as John does, that one day his children, family and friends will read his side of the story. She Let Go of My Hand by John D. Wattson is a courageous book and deserves their attention.