Our Lifelong Struggles with Power and Surrender
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 Oh, what a lovely book--popular psychology at its best: a multifaceted study of an important, lifelong personal and interpersonal issue, written crisply, enjoyably, and informatively. A bestselling writer of nonfiction (Necessary Losses, 1986), a novel (Murdering Mr. Monti, 1994), and children's books, Viorst writes about the many issues of achieving control. She marshals a host of interesting observations--her own and others', such as psychologist Althea Horner's point that adolescents often achieve ``illusory power,'' rejecting parental control only to submit to that of another person, group, or social force (e.g., an idealized mentor, friends and other peers, or the values of MTV). For adults, even emotional fragility and physical illness may be used in the service of interpersonal control: ``The person running the show may be Poor Little Me,'' Viorst maintains tartly. Perhaps her best chapter, however, is on that most painful and unavoidable of subjects: the choices each of us must make at the end of life. Viorst makes a good, if undoubtedly highly controversial, case for ``rational suicide'' under certain stringent circumstances. More generally, she explores the terminally ill person's need to maintain a measure of control over how he or she dies, balanced ultimately by what Rabbi Leonard Beerman describes as ``a willed decision, an active choosing to let go.'' Like Necessary Losses, Viorst's new book deserves a very broad audience. Among them should be aspiring writers of good, popular nonfiction. Such prose looks easy, but it is anything but. It requires choosing an intriguing undercovered subject, doing extensive research among specialists, as well as mining the relevant literature and one's own experience, and perhaps above all, telling memorable anecdotes and otherwise maintaining a compelling narrative. By these standards, Viorst is an exceptionally fine popularizer, indeed.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-80139-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1997