BookLife Review and Prize Critic’s Report

Jacobson’s debut is an elegant, engaging account of her life as a wife and mother facing a harrowing marriage, then as a single parent and eventual successful business executive. Unappreciated, obese, and struggling with an undiagnosed eating disorder, Marsha accepts Peter’s proposal even when she knows instinctively that “this marriage would nail me into a very bad box.” Later, even while dealing with divorce and a vengeful Peter, and mothering two little girls, she joins Harvard Business School. Though plagued by illness, she completes her course as “a decent student … but not a star,” and then starts work, happy to provide for her daughters. (Promised support from Peter never comes.) She marries longtime friend Jay, who is recovering from his wife’s suicide, but Jay’s traumatic childhood comes to haunt their marriage.

Jacobson’s excellent storytelling skills make the memoir riveting. She plunges us straight into the heart of things right from the beginning and is able to maintain this steady pace through the book. At the same time, the narrative is thoughtful and reflective when the story demands. Unpredictable and domineering, Peter is the most interesting character in the book, though for negative reasons. So is Judge Samuel. Marsha’s second husband Jay, meanwhile, endures the far-reaching consequences of childhood abuse, sensitive material that Jacobson handles with insight and empathy. Minnie and Julia, Marsha’s grandmothers, are incredibly strong and empathetic women who with their kindness and help support their neglected grandchild.

Jacobson’s career takes her to fascinating places, such as Mattel headquarters in Japan, and she captures them and their cultures with nuance and welcome bursts of wit. She addresses work challenges and the several ways in which she tackled them. Her obvious passion for her chosen career is evident in these anecdotes. Jacobson’s never-say-die attitude, her immense love for her two girls, and her strong narrative skills make this memoir an absorbing and rewarding read. 

 

BookLife Prize Critic's Report by Publishers Weekly.

This fast-paced, insightful survey of a young woman’s trials and successes is, at its heart, a stunning story of resilience that will resonate with readers. Jacobson’s personal history is riveting, from her troubled childhood to a controlling marriage to a sudden, debilitating health issue. Readers will be infused with empathy and admiration as Jacobson rises from the ashes each time. Jacobson is a talented writer and particularly strong storyteller. Her tone is relaxed and informal, but it’s her narrative approach that draws readers in, offering up a perfect amount of detail paired with expressive wording. 

The Wrong Calamity is a survivor’s story filled with distinctive challenges and a determined, unique protagonist. This is Jacobson’s personal story, and as such, her character shines through, but she fully conveys qualities about others in her life that immediately transport readers into the center of her experiences. 

Speaker | Role Model | Survivor

Copyright © 2023 Marsha Jacobson. All rights reserved.

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