An unconventional and perceptive memoir that aims to inspire readers to “discover the happiness that is waiting to be...

MIGRATING TOWARD HAPPINESS

THE SOUNDTRACK TO MY SPIRITUAL AWAKENING

A restless woman takes an epic road trip across the United States in this musically inspired memoir. 

For most, a layoff is a cause for panic, but when O’Grady lost her job at an unnamed not-for-profit organization, her immediate response was to think, “This is a gift.” Freed from office drudgery and eager to escape New York City, which she saw as “cluttered with concrete and steel,” O’Grady decided it was time to “see the USA in her Chevrolet,” just like her Irish-immigrant paternal grandmother, Catherine, did decades earlier. The latter died before the author was born, so this trip was an attempt to connect with an ancestor whom she never knew. It was also a way for her to “wake up to my soul’s purpose” and refocus a life that had become disconnected from her goals and dreams, which included jazz singing. Remarkably, O’Grady convinced Chevrolet to loan her a vehicle for the journey. With a friend for company, she took off from New York, intending to drive cross-country to Seattle. In thoughtful, insightful prose, she describes her trip and the people she encountered, from workers at an Ohio factory that made General Motors truck engines to the owner of a hotel in tiny Wall, South Dakota. These personal connections are what interest O’Grady the most, so readers shouldn’t expect lengthy digressions on the majesty of Yellowstone or Glacier National Park, where she made brief pit stops. Instead, the book employs an unusual structure, like a mixtape, with each chapter title taken from a particular song—such as Bruce Springsteen’s “Badlands” for when she travels through South Dakota or Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” as she recalls her beloved Granny Nora’s death. The author proves to be a firm believer in signs (“I must have a guardian angel protecting me or a spirit guide sending me messages. There’s always a sign”), and she tells of looking for messages from her deceased grandmother. She also offers some surprising insights on the nature of the American Dream and the immigrant experience. 

An unconventional and perceptive memoir that aims to inspire readers to “discover the happiness that is waiting to be revealed at his or her core.”

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9822-2099-0

Page Count: 254

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2019

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A vibrant, encouraging depiction of a sinister disorder.

REASONS TO STAY ALIVE

A British novelist turns to autobiography to report the manifold symptoms and management of his debilitating disease, depression.

Clever author Haig (The Humans, 2013, etc.) writes brief, episodic vignettes, not of a tranquil life but of an existence of unbearable, unsustainable melancholy. Throughout his story, presented in bits frequently less than a page long (e.g., “Things you think during your 1,000th panic attack”), the author considers phases he describes in turn as Falling, Landing, Rising, Living, and, finally, simply Being with spells of depression. Haig lists markers of his unseen disease, including adolescent angst, pain, continual dread, inability to speak, hypochondria, and insomnia. He describes his frequent panic attacks and near-constant anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure. Haig also assesses the efficacy of neuroscience, yoga, St. John’s wort, exercise, pharmaceuticals, silence, talking, walking, running, staying put, and working up the courage to do even the most seemingly mundane of tasks, like visiting the village store. Best for the author were reading, writing, and the frequent dispensing of kindnesses and love. He acknowledges particularly his debt to his then-girlfriend, now-wife. After nearly 15 years, Haig is doing better. He appreciates being alive and savors the miracle of existence. His writing is infectious though sometimes facile—and grammarians may be upset with the writer’s occasional confusion of the nominative and objective cases of personal pronouns. Less tidy and more eclectic than William Styron’s equally brief, iconic Darkness Visible, Haig’s book provides unobjectionable advice that will offer some help and succor to those who experience depression and other related illnesses. For families and friends of the afflicted, Haig’s book, like Styron’s, will provide understanding and support.

A vibrant, encouraging depiction of a sinister disorder.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-14-312872-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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