Book Review: “My Boyfriend's Back: 50 True Stories of Reconnecting with a Long-Lost Love” by Donna Hanover.

As a New Yorker and Rudy Giuliani fan I was fully prepared to dislike this book, but I ended up enjoying it. From 1994 through 2001 the author was First Lady of New York City. She and Giuliani were married for 18 years and had two children. She was the lead anchor for the 10 p.m. news on WPIX Channel 11 for much of the 1980s. She previously was an anchorwoman in Miami and also appeared on the syndicated Wall Street Journal Report.
Donna Hanover and Mayor Giuliani had a public and messy divorce in which she refused to move out of NYC’s Gracie Mansion. The theme of the book is encountering the romantic past, and many of the couples had not seen each other since high school or even grammar school. They claim these rekindled relationships have erased the decades. The stories are mostly, but not all, happy endings. The age ranges of the reunited couples range from 20s thru 70s. It includes regular folks and some celebrities.
Among them are Carol Channing, who married her high school sweetheart, Harry Kullijian, in 2003, when they were in their early 80’s. Suzanne Pleshette and Tom Poston, both of “The Bob Newhart Show,” were wed in 2001, 45 years after their romance went bust. The designer Nicole Miller also reconnected with an early love, as did Carole Keeton Rylander. She called herself “one tough grandma” when she won re-election to the state comptroller’s job in Texas in 2002. In August 2003, Donna Hanover, 53, married Edwin A. Oster, whom she met in high school at a debate team competition in Northern California.
Her point is that a romantic interest from the distant past leaves an imprint on your mind that never goes away. It is not that you just happened to meet the right person at 15. The sharing of roots is very significant. These couples have things in common from growing up the same way. The fantasy is that you see this person the way they were. You look at an 80 year old woman and see an 18 year old. There is plenty of scientific evidence to support Hanover’s thesis regarding the impact of early romances.
Hanover relies heavily on the work of Nancy Kalish, a psychology professor at California State University in Sacramento and author of the 1997 book “Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romance”. Kalish has spent 11 years collecting data from more than 3,000 adults who tried reunions
In Kalish’s initial sample of 1,000 lost-and-found lovers, ages 18 to 95, nearly three-quarters remained together after a decade of study. When these past lovers married each other, their divorce rate after four years tallied in at no more than 1.5 percent. Usually, second marriages are relatively fragile: In the public at large, nearly one-quarter of all couples who remarry get divorced again within five years.
If you are seriously interested in this topic you should read Kalish. If you want light reading with amusing anecdotes than Hanover is the best choice.
The first chapter of Hanover’s book includes the following dialogue:
“It was August 2002, a stifling hot afternoon in New York … Nothing stood out about that day until the phone rang. “Donna, it’s Ed Oster.” I sat down. Ed Oster was my high school love. He was also my college love – until he broke my heart. I tried to hear Ed’s voice over the pulse pounding in my ear.
“I was wondering,” Ed asked tentatively, “if you’re planning to go to the Stanford reunion.” This was interesting to say the least. What was going on here? This was the guy who had dumped me freshman year and had spoken to me for maybe two minutes at our reunion five years ago.
“Yes,” I said and then waited. Silently I prayed, “Please don’t let this be about fund-raising.” “Well, the reunion isn’t until October,” Ed said, “but my work is bringing me to New York next week. I was wondering if I could take you out for coffee.” I thought to myself, “I gotta call somebody – no one’s going to believe this.” Oh-so-casually I responded, “Let me check my calendar.” After flipping through several weeks of blank “date” pages, I said, “I think I can free up a little time.”

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