An Australian travel writer’s exuberant sampling of wellness methods.
After years of drinking, smoking, and carefree eating, Guardian senior writer Delaney (This Restless Life: Churning Through Love, Work, and Travel, 2009, etc.) sought to “reset my body and my life.” Enticed by a magazine assignment, the author left Brooklyn for her native Australia to embark on a controversial, promise-laden 101-day fasting program and evaluate its effectiveness. Though the program’s core clinician diagnosed her as “highly toxic,” the author began the hardcore regimen with a mixture of enthusiasm, hopefulness, and skepticism. Though she didn’t finish successfully, the process itself was by turns fascinating, grueling, and tedious. Her body revolted, her mind raced, and her breath became repulsive; she also suffered two bouts of frightening chest pain. Delaney expanded her wellness survey to include the extreme, sweat-dripping physical demands of Bikram yoga. She also opines on the addictive nature of the multibillion-dollar wellness industry and how it has replaced religion for some, and she evaluates its place in society as a commodity. She effectively explores the nuances of the “so-called healing crisis paradox” and, through her own anecdotes and experiences, probes how and why people feel the need to detoxify their bodies (and minds) and emerge “clean” from impurities. In the final section, Delaney delves into the art of coffee colonics, meditation, and the mindful serenity craze, chronicling her time at a silent retreat. While the author reached no profound epiphany, she admits that “the road to wellness has been my own personal stations of the cross,” achieved with mixed results. Throughout the narrative, Delaney proves to be a witty tour guide across the wellness wonderland, and the book will certainly appeal to readers curious to dip their feet in.
Eye-opening and entertainingly voyeuristic, this impressionistic taste test illustrates the struggles more than the benefits of detoxification techniques.