AN UNKNOWN WOMAN: A Journey to Self-Discovery by Alice Koller

AN UNKNOWN WOMAN: A Journey to Self-Discovery

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Written in 1962-63 by a 37-year-old woman, this tortured, fumbling, sprawling therapeutic self-analysis may still--in its very openness and lack of pretension--speak directly to other persons (especially the young) mired in an identity crisis or general weltschmerz. In 1962 Alice Koller, unmarried, was a drifting Ph.D. in philosophy with no scholarly or career commitments. ""I just don't have a life. I'm just using up a number of days."" With her newly-acquired German shepherd pup Loges, she escapes to a remote cottage on wintry Nantucket--there to ""break rules"" about when to eat and sleep, to walk by the ocean and tentatively respond to the zany devotion of Loges. But her intent is to sift through the ashes of her life: ""I'm here to understand myself."" Weeping often, Keller reviews a steady march of failures: at acting school, she didn't measure up; the Ph.D. was a lengthy obstacle course with many downs; the men she loved (and still does) pulled away. She couldn't see the reality of situations in which she found herself; she couldn't hear what others were really saying; and worst of all, she couldn't feel her own purposes, or know what she wanted. Was there any core of self that could honestly want? At first Keller traces her vacancy--her need to see herself only as reflected in others--to an early struggle for her mother's love and approval, never given. Later she understands that she acted as if she had feelings, only to please others. On Christmas day, alone, she considers suicide. Then, looking calmly on the unimportance of living or dying, she attends an academic convention in New York, where she practices ""saying what I mean"" and accepts, finally, that the former lovers she meets there are gone forever. Back on Nantucket, she coolly appraises her losing relationships and turns inward to the spark of self. She finds two loves and delights--Loges and walking by the sea: a tiny beginning but truly coming, at last, from ""the self I have."" The protracted meditations are relieved only by Loges' antics; but the untutored groping for certainty within loneliness, depression, and fear may strike a chord in many.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston