TAKE TWO by Jo Brans


Second Acts in Contemporary Lives
Email this review


Nothing is so constant as change, Brans (Mother, I Have Something to Tell You, 1987) reminds us, but it isn't always easy. To explore the nature of change, she here recounts the personal stories of dozens who have pulled their lives up by the bootstraps, rewoven their tangled threads of desire, or simply given themselves a good shaking. Brans calls her subjects "innovators," and because she agrees with John Cheerer that "telling ourselves stories is the best way we have of comprehending the turn of events in human life," she offers detailed interviews. Some subjects, such as Kay Fanning, were propelled to radical change after personal crises: when her marriage failed and her religion strengthened, Fanning left a comfortable life in Chicago, packed up her three children, and took an entry-level job at an Alaskan newspaper. She went from "the Junior League to the Urban League," and even further--to a new husband, ownership of that Alaskan newspaper, and then editorship of The Christian Science Monitor. Others, such as Bill Emerson, who has been a journalist, college professor and free-lance writer, embrace change eagerly: "lest he fall into the trap of boredom, Bill said, he changed his life drastically every nine years, 'especially when I'm happy.'" Still others escape their lives, seeking a kind of desperate change. There's college professor Duncan Aswell, for instance, who simply dropped his former identity, bought a bus ticket to Atlanta, and started over with the proceeds of the sale of his Volkswagen and a new name, Bill Cutler. And smaller yet dramatic stories tell of an actress who left the stage to become a nurse, a microbiologist who took up acting, and a journalist who wrote (and had published successfully) her first novel when her cancer was diagnosed. Loosely organizing these dozens of tales to show the process of change and the skills necessary to change (gumption and intensity rate high), Brans draws few conclusions about her innovative subjects, choosing to let them speak for themselves. Occasionally uneven, uninspiring, or sad, most of these stories challenge the reader to reexamine the humdrum rhythm of daily life.

ISBN: 385-24348-0
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online: