Books by Gail Sheehy

DARING by Gail Sheehy
Released: Sept. 9, 2014

"Daring, the author amply shows in this spirited life story, defines her."
A journalist recounts her risks, fears and triumphs. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 2, 2003

"A sharp study of grief in both individuals and the community. (8-page photo insert, not seen)"
The post-attack life of a New Jersey community that lost a disproportionate number of its members on 9/11. Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 1998

Despite some facile passages, the bestselling journalist Sheehy (Passages, 1976; New Passages, 1995; etc.) has done it again: engaged in a good deal of research, interviewed many of the right people, and then produced a beautifully readable, very useful guide to important aspects of adult human development. Her focus is both descriptive—charting the changing nature of American men's lives from the "second adulthood" that often begins between ages 40 and 50, through the attempt to live a vigorous, still-evolving old age—and prescriptive, helping men to rethink their lives in order to make a "preemptive strike against sameness and sourness." Sheehy's overly and redundantly upbeat tone can indeed be grating at times, and she does venture her share of insipid, undocumented generalizations: "Women are happier in midlife than they have been in any previous generation" (tell that to the economically downwardly mobile divorced women studied by Judith Wallerstein). But the author more than compensates for such passages by picking just the right variety of professionals and laypeople with whom to speak, by asking probing questions, listening well, and (usually) writing even better. The cumulative mass of her information, observations, and anecdotes is immensely impressive, addressing a wide variety of issues related to middle-aged men's dilemmas—from being laid off abruptly to beginning a new career, from impotence to sexuality among the aged, from depression (and new findings about its close correlation with heart attacks) to struggling for emotional regeneration. Much of this will help thousands of men and women alike. Credit also should go to both author and publisher for doing a first-rate job on a commonly overlooked aspect of popular books: providing crisp, imaginative headings and an appealing layout. This is a rare work of engaging and substantive pop-psych that is perfectly balanced between psychology and the —popular.— (Author tour) Read full book review >
NEW PASSAGES by Gail Sheehy
Released: June 21, 1995

Here is Passages II, an upbeat, fact-filled, people-rich, but ultimately unsatisfying sequel to the 1976 bestseller. Sheehy's earlier Passages borrowed from Erik Erikson and Daniel Levinson of Yale to popularize the theory that the lives of adults as well as children are marked by stages of development, such as the Trying Twenties and Catch-30, until age 50, when it's smooth sailing. Well, Sheehy is in her 50s now and encountering some rough waters, so she's added a few more stagesthe Flaming Fifties, the Uninhibited Eightiesto her earlier scenario. Moreover, she declares, ``There is a revolution in the life cycle.'' Puberty arrives sooner, and adolescence lasts longer. ``First Adulthood'' begins around 30, segueing into ``Second Adulthood,'' which lasts from about ages 45 to 85. During that time, women struggle with menopauseand perhaps, she suggests provocatively, so do men. Both reframe their lives, women pushing the envelope on their careers and men often confronting corporate downsizing. Age 50 is also fraught with crises of mortality and meaning, giving passage to the Serene Sixties and Sage Seventies. Throughout are rich interviews with both working class and white collar/professional men and women copingnot always successfullywith the stresses of growing older. The flaw in this book lies in the very reason Sheehy wrote it. Labeling generations (``Silent,'' ``Vietnam,'' ``Endangered'') and relabeling Erikson's Age of Generativity as the Age of Integrity mask the fact that life cycle changes are happening so fast that it's too soon to develop a perspective. Sheehy's confidence in the efficacy of exercise, a healthy lifestyle, and an optimistic attitude to hold back the effects of aging is well placed. But these constitute only one step in combating society's aversion to people with wrinkles and walkers, to say nothing of the millions of elderly living below the poverty line. A mix of inventive speculation and solid informationon impotence and menopause among the latterbut its impact is diluted by horoscope-like predictions and (though Sheehy surveyed thousands of people) a penchant for presenting anecdote as evidence. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: May 12, 1992

A compelling discussion about menopause, packed with facts and anecdotes that are right on target for the baby-boom women about to encounter change of life. This short volume is an outgrowth of an article that Sheehy wrote for Vanity Fair when she began to experience menopausal symptoms. The response from readers was immediate, clearly confirming that the article had cracked ``the last taboo.'' To rephrase an old saw, nobody wants to talk about menopause, but everybody wants to do something about it. Laid out eloquently here are the facts, the folklore, and the fears, revealed by interviews with scientists, medical professionals, and dozens of women. Many of the women were frightened by the idea that, as menopause neared, they would begin to ``lose it upstairs.'' But the symptoms that accompany menopause make ``losing it'' almost appealing. They include: depression, headaches, itchy skin, mood swings, hot flashes, reduced sex drive, fatigue, irritability, osteoporosis, sleep deprivation, memory loss—and more. Not all symptoms afflict all women—some have none—and, most comforting, the symptoms are almost always temporary or easily treatable. Sheehy takes on the medical establishment, calling the lack of data about hormone therapy a ``scandal,'' placing current knowledge about change of life on the level of ``leeches and roots and shamans.'' But she also sees the stages of menopause as the gateway to a new life, in which revived energy and earned wisdom can be harnessed to the community. Many of the interviews are moving, and some are funny; but there is a disproportionate emphasis on the experiences of upper-income women who can afford bone-density analysis and hormone-replacement therapy. It's reported that there are 43 million American women in or past menopause, with another half million to join them each year in the 90's. Sheehy's book will be a bible for them—and hopefully for the doctors who treat them. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 14, 1990

A masterly and revelatory biography of the First Man in Moscow. Drawing on over a year's research in the USSR—during which she gained access to Gorbachev's childhood friends, classmates, Communist Party colleagues, and other sources—Sheehy (Character, Passages, Pathfinders, etc.) offers a wondrously illuminating portrait of the man who climbed the Kremlin's slippery pole. A descendant of Ukrainian cossacks, Mikhail Sergeyevitch (who turns 60 in March) grew up in a remote area of the Caucasus within the Russian Republic. His industriousness as a farmhand earned him a place at Moscow Univ., where he prospered and married the formidable Raisa Maximovna Titorenko, an equally ambitious Siberian. Posted back to his boyhood turf, Gorbachev eventually became CP boss of Stavropol, a billet that allowed the paradigmatic apparatchik to cultivate the bolshie shishki (big shots) who repaired to local spas. Having won the sponsorship of Yuri Andropov (then head of the KGB), Gorbachev was summoned to Moscow as agricultural minister in 1978. Although still what Sheehy terms "a disciple of doublethink," he understood the need for restructuring the USSR's crumbling socioeconomic system and restrictive political institutions. When Gorbachev reached the top in 1985, he took his show on the road, launching a series of bold diplomatic initiatives in arms control and allied fields that have won him global acclaim. Sheehy argues convincingly that the breaching of the Berlin Wall and consequent loss of satellite nations was the fruit of a deliberate decision based on financial considerations. But while Gorbachev's statesmanship earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, his calculated risks have proved less rewarding on the home front. By the author's persuasive account, her subject's reforms fall well short of democracy. Nor, she points out, is Gorbachev prepared to brook genuine dissent, debate, or other challenges to his leadership. In the meantime, Sheehy notes, a polyglot citizenry appears loath to abandon socialism's cradle-to-grave security in favor of free market-driven enterprise. At any rate, she concludes, the fate of the Gorbachev regime remains a very open question. Riveting and coherent perspectives on a man who, to borrow from Winston Churchill, has been "a fiddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Read full book review >