A Beautiful, Terrible Thing: A Memoir of Marriage and Betrayal

One night. One email. Two realities…

Before: Jen Waite has met the partner of her dreams. A handsome, loving man who becomes part of her family, evolving into her husband, her best friend, and the father of her infant daughter.

After: A disturbing email sparks suspicion, leading to an investigation of who this man really is and what was really happening in their marriage.

In alternating Before and After chapters, Waite obsessively analyzes her relationship, trying to find a single moment form the past five years that isn’t part of the long con of lies and manipulation. Instead, she finds more lies, infidelity, and betrayal than she could have imagined. With the pacing and twists of a psychological thriller, A Beautiful, Terrible Thing looks at how a fairy tale can become a nightmare and what happens when “it could never happen to me” actually does.

Community Review

  • Boy, where to start.. I should have read all the negative review first, and believed them. Everything they said is exactly what I felt. She is not an author. She cheated on someone and then wrote a book justifying her bad behavior under the premis that she was duped. How can we feel sorry for her? The book reads like a child wrote it and funding by a social media group. Please do not pay for this book. If you feel compelled to read it, I can send you mine. Or go to the library and check it out. One of the reviewers states that the author was an unsuccessful actor trying to capatilize on her past. I suppose that could be said about many of us, but unfortunately for us, Hers was written down and put on our feed as readable and interesting.
  • 3 1/2 stars. Jen Waite movingly writes of every woman’s worst nightmare: She discovers just after the birth of her child that her husband is having an affair. The book is split into “Before” and “After” (before she discovers this and after). The “Before” is filled with the courtship of she and her restaurant coworker, soon to be boyfriend, and then eventually husband, Marco. The “After” the journey she takes after discovering her husband’s affair with another of his coworkers (the man doesn’t seem to cast his net wide), their split, her research into psychopathy (she is convinced her husband has anti-social personality disorder), and emotional recovery.
    The “After” portions are chillingly delineated, and this reader felt her heart skipping beats and her blood boiling along with Jen’s as the author begins to put together the pieces of her husband’s affair with a 22-year-old Russian who likes to take selfies (that in and of itself is enough to make one puke) and to unmask his unending lies and manipulations. I took off a half-star, however, for the “Before” portions, which describe the progression of a relationship that seems, on the surface, to be fine. I kept waiting for the “red flags” that normally appear when one engages with a psychopath (they are always there, and usually follow a distinct pattern), however, all I was finding was an attentive, loving man and what seemed an average courtship. Chapters are devoted to Jen getting to know her Marco’s son from a previous marriage, Marco’s birthday party, etc. The chapters do nothing to serve the story. Yes, no doubt there were long stretches where Marco seemed like a normal guy – otherwise Jen likely wouldn’t have married him – however, if your memoir is billed as one that analyzes a relationship with a psychopath, then the “Before” portions should have done this as well. Instead, it is not until close to the end of the book that Jen doubles back and reveals there were plenty of glaring red flags along the way – the most glaring being that she and Marco started their relationship before he broke up with his long-term girlfriend. So, from the beginning, Jen knew he was capable of cheating. I got the feeling she buried this information so that the reader wouldn’t lose sympathy and abandon the story early on. There are other classic red flags too – Marco is a love bomber who buries her in flatteries, he’s a law breaker (an illegal alien), has sad, pitying tales he tells her of his former relationships and childhood, and has a tumultuous work history and never has any money. Unfortunately we don’t learn all of this until the last quarter of the book as the “After” Jen begins to take stock of her marriage. For me, those signs should have been delineated in the “Before” sections, even if Jen didn’t realize they were “signs” at the time.
    It’s tempting here (as some have done in the comments) to dismiss Marco as a “garden variety jerk and cheater,” but as someone who has studied psychopathy intensively, this goes beyond that. This is a man who was cheating from the get-go, and who pushed the sorts of boundaries that even garden variety cheaters normally don’t (such as calling his mistress on the day his wife gave birth). In fact, at one point Marco does something that even psychopaths don’t normally do – he flat-out tells his wife he has “no feelings.” And he does this over and over, and portraying it as some kind of physical ailment. For me, the idealize, devalue and discard pattern of the Cluster B personality type is quite clear. The idealize lasted while Marco needed his green card and money for the restaurant he started (which Jen basically funds) and the devalue as soon as he had those things and Jen’s attention turned to their newborn. The man also admits that he was plotting to kill a waitress he’d had an affair with. Hardly garden variety!
    One thing that also confused me was that at the end of the book, Jen strongly hints that she decided to take revenge on her philandering husband, and even says that if you’re tired of women getting the short end of the stick while waiting for karma to run its course “this next section is for you” – but then no revenge is coming. Unless Jen deciding to become a therapist is some sort of twisted revenge.
    Jen Waite is a strong, sympathetic character, her writing is solid if not lyrical, and the book should help anyone in these types of relationships feel they are not alone (though there are hundreds of websites for that too). It was good to see her so quickly grasp the crux of her sad situation and use it to look inward to herself and how to improve what made her vulnerable to a person like this.
    P.S. The husband is easy to find online. I’d thought from Jen’s descriptions, he would be very attractive. Well, you know what they say, love is blind.

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