Review of The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg
Wizenberg struggles to reconcile her identity, sexuality, love, and duty into an honest lifestyle that can work for her and those closest to her.
When The Fixed Stars begins, Molly Wizenberg has a husband of almost a decade (with whom she owns two restaurants and a bar in Seattle) and a toddler daughter. Her life is messy, busy, and full.
She had never recognized any curiosity or attraction to women before, but in this memoir, Wizenberg recounts how she is struck by a sudden, paralyzing desire for a female defense attorney during jury duty. She strives to be honest with her husband, who is, she feels, understandably hurt, confused, and angry. Yet Wizenberg finds it impossible to brush off her strengthening feelings.
Wizenberg explores what she realizes may be a more complex sexuality than she had previously understood, and she fears that her marriage will unravel if she pursues a path in which she satisfies her curiosity. But she is even more terrified of not attempting to live honestly, burying what she is realizing may be her true identity. She also begins to recognize the parts of her life and relationship that she had compromised on for others' happiness.
For a time, Wizenberg is at a loss to explain much more than the power of her shifted desire. "I wanted to be believed," she says, "though I struggled to explain myself." Because it is difficult for her to elucidate, it is at times also a challenge for the reader to fully understand, but the author's determination to find truth and fulfillment are the touchstones here.
Wizenberg retraces key points of her life, trying to find a pattern toward homosexuality that she hadn't acknowledged. Her marriage and her love had been real, she determines, as are her guilt and pain at potentially upending it all. She looks at studies, accepted knowledge, and understanding of sexuality (she includes some footnotes), desperately trying to establish whether there were signs, or if she has simply changed.
Wizenberg struggles to look at herself unflinchingly and reconcile her identity, sexuality, love, and duty into an honest lifestyle that can work for her and those closest to her.
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Wizenberg is also the author of A Homemade Life, a home management book that I adored the cozy idea of in my early married days (my love of and time spent reading and my vague desire for a cleverly organized house were forces already at war). She also wrote Delancey, about opening the restaurant by that name with her husband.