Monday, November 25, 2013

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

One of America's most beloved writers shares her suggestions for finding beauty in the world even during the toughest times.

Survival Lessons provides a road map of how to reclaim your life from this day forward, with ways to re-envision everything—from relationships with friends and family to the way you see yourself. As Alice Hoffman says, “In many ways I wrote Survival Lessons to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts of sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other. I wrote to remind myself that despite everything that was happening to me, there were still choices I could make.”

Wise, gentle, and wry, Alice Hoffman teaches all of us how to choose what matters most.

Read an excerpt here.

My thoughts: I love Alice Hoffman's work. I've read two historical novels by her, both vastly different and both incredibly well written; The Dovekeeper and Museum of Extraordinary Things. She exhibits her craft by enchanting me. Completely.

Apparently, Hoffman is also the author of Young Adult books, along with her women's fiction and historical fiction. Survival Lessons is a short, easy-to-read book that begins with her own breast cancer diagnosis. There are no how-to books on surviving breast cancer treatments. Or maybe there are but not what she was looking for. So she wrote a series of essays that encompass a way of thinking and looking at life. The overall theme is choose the way you spend your life, live in the moment, and enjoy. There are also underlying lessons, barely concealed and symbolic.

"I know why my grandmother always told me to bring along a sweater on cold nights. She was telling me I had to take care of myself, to watch out for chills and pneumonia. But she was also telling me that life if worth fighting for. I have every blanket she ever made for me even though they are heavy as armor. My grandmother's spirit is in every stitch, and her love for me is there as well."
She provides a brief history of her friend, Maclin, then Macklin's perfect brownie recipe. An epilogue on the recipe says,  "Maclin's brownies will not appear to be perfect. They will sink in the middle. The top will crack. You'll want to throw them out. Don't. They will be everything they should be and more." Isn't that the way we should look at ourselves? At others? At our life? It doesn't look perfect but it is everything it should be and more.

I love Alice Hoffman's writing. I love essays. I couldn't be more happy with Survival Lessons.

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