In this post, What Was Mine author Helen Klein Ross gives us a peek at what she’s reading. What Was Mine is the fascinating story of a kidnapped child and how one act can irrevocably change our lives. It’s now available in print and ebook – picked as a People Magazine Best New Book!
You know the story: Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy finds girl and winds up happy for a while, if not ever after. But how often is the story told from the point of view of the guy? FAKE MISSED CONNECTIONS, a new memoir by Brett Fletcher Lauer, is an introspective tale of infidelity, divorce and its aftermath through the eyes of a wronged husband.
Recently married, Lauer comes home from work one day and picks up the ringing phone. (It’s 2005. They’ve got a landline.) The voice is a woman’s: “Your wife is having an affair with my husband. It has caused some trouble in my marriage and I thought you should know.” He says the only word he can manage, “Thanks”, and hangs up.
Conventionally-drawn male characters might react by throwing the handset against a wall. But Lauer quietly crosses the room and puts the question to his wife, “Do you have anything to tell me?” When Nina is silent, Lauer walks out the front door and drives to a store to buy cigarettes–his first smokes in a year. Wait. Isn’t it a girl thing to react to spousal bad behavior by doing harm to oneself? This story is compelling because it is told by someone whose point of view is usually imagined, not described, certainly not in most books that portray a marriage’s disintegration.
Lauer moves back to New York, drawn to “the verticalness” he prefers to the horizontal sprawl of the Bay Area. He considers suicide, but doesn’t have a plan and “therapists only take a suicidal client seriously if he has a plan.” He makes a “suicide to-do list” which includes deleting computer files, history and cookies. He trashes photos; he scrubs files, all in an attempt to wipe out the past. He chooses a poem to be read at his grave: “Afterwards” by Thomas Hardy. He is certain that the ghost of a murderer haunts his apartment.
What reconnects him to life is discovering “Missed Connections.” It’s a column of notices on Craigslist written by “anonymous strangers reaching into the ether to find someone they believe they have shared a moment with.” He begins posting Missed Connections himself–fake ones–and starts to meet women who are intrigued by them.
It feels appropriate that Lauer uses “illusions of connectedness” to tell a story about seeking connection. It’s an artful pastiche of letters neither sent nor answered; correspondence decades old; drafts of emails, journal entries, texts, transcripts of IMs and chats, even a note he writes to his wife’s lover which is answered, to Lauer’s dismay, by a “business letter.”
The story ends as you know it will: broken heart healed and made wise by new love. It is a plot trajectory that has worked since Jane Austen. It’s an arc no less satisfying in the hands of a male writer employing modern tools of nonfiction.