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FEBRUARY 14, 2000: 

After the Breakup by Angela Watrous and Carole Honeychurch (New Harbinger), paper, $13.95

When freelance writers and friends Angela Watrous and Carole Honeychurch both found themselves facing the wreckage of fractured relationships, they began to consider how other women could benefit from a self-help book that addressed the bewildering and lonely experience of coming to terms with a "non-marital" break-up. The result was their book After the Breakup, which should be required reading for women dealing with the shock of emotional abandonment and the simultaneous need to rebuild their lives.

Watrous and Honeychurch confront the smug attitudes of marriage-obsessed heterosexist couples by asserting that there are tremendous losses to unmarried couples who unite and separate outside the boundaries of conventional civil marriages. After the Breakup features the stories of straight, lesbian, and bisexual women, showing that no matter where you fall on the spectrum of the Kinsey Sexual Scale, there really is enough bitterness to go around.

Grief and wallowing is only briefly indulged before various testimonials reveal the liberating benefits of being newly single, with second chances to assert independence, resurrect creativity, and experience true freedom. Everything from breaking up, back sliding, and even the hope of reconciliation is addressed, along with the pragmatic concerns of finances, property, child custody, family dynamics, and the division of mutual friends. After the Breakup may at times seem cloying and New Ageish to cynics and the emotionally squeamish, but it is ultimately an invaluable guide for women of all orientations, sexual or spiritual. -- Amy DiBello

Wild: Stories of Survival From the World's Most Dangerous Places edited by Clint Willis (Adrenaline Books), paper, $16.95

The trend in outdoor publishing these days is to sell every story as an adventure, and this book is no exception. But the writing here offers more than that. Whether it be facing the consequences of bug bites (in Redmond O'Hanlon's "In Trouble Again"), fire (Norman Maclean's "Young Men & Fire"), or solitude (Jon Krakauer's "Into the Wild"), the thread uniting these stories is that they all involve people in places where wilderness is bigger than they are.

Along with Barry Lopez' beautiful "Pearyland," the jewel of the book is Joe Kane's "Savages." Traveling in a land where native's statements are as bewildering as the jungle around them ("Quemperi says welcome," Enqueri said. "He wants to know if you will give him your teeth"), Kane describes a world of immense beauty, shows the snaking tentacles of the modern world threatening its existence, and inspires you to learn more.

Edward Abbey's "Down the River" is the collection's backbone. His statement that "wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit" is more satisfying than the cover's advertising of adventure stories. And if when Abbey writes that " ... true original sin is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us ... " readers nod their head in agreement and are encouraged to experience these writers and the places they love, then Wild will have proven its appeal is more than surface deep. -- Paul Bogard

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