A touching remembrance that will appeal to an audience that’s open to alternative spiritual practices.

MESSAGES FROM THE AFTERLIFE

MEMOIRS OF A HOSPICE NURSE

A nurse’s memoir tells of a life devoted to spiritual progress.

Debut author Hill spent 13 years working in a hospice—an emotionally depleting but morally fulfilling profession. Along the way, she regularly confronted death and the idea of her own mortality, which always frightened her. However, she drew consolation and guidance from her spirituality, which she discovered at 14, when she had a premonition of her maternal grandmother’s imminent demise. She eventually studied Reiki, shamanic healing, and Kundalini yoga, as well as a number of 12-step programs; these studies not only helped her manage the painful emotional wounds of an abusive childhood, but also proved useful to her patients. Hill splits her remembrance into two parts. The first is a collection of short biographical sketches of her most memorable patients, emphasizing her spiritual connection with each. The second section of impressionistic vignettes provides an account of her own spiritual development, the challenges she encountered, and the lessons she learned, with a focus on her mother’s failing health and death. The author discovered that when one lifted the taboo on discussing death, it created a spiritual space for healing and acceptance: “It was uncomfortable and people thought they were protecting their loved ones” by avoiding the topic, she says. “The reality was that when it was brought out into the light and discussed with love and reassurance, magic happened.” Hill writes with clarity and passion, and she unpacks her own emotional stumbles with impressive candor. She also provides a thoughtful discussion of what she sees as the limitations of Western medicine, particularly the pharmaceutical industry, and advocates intelligently for the medicinal and spiritual benefits of cannabis. That said, readers uninterested in New-Age spirituality are unlikely to be find many of her accounts persuasive, as when she says that a patient communicated to her posthumously in the form of a butterfly. 

A touching remembrance that will appeal to an audience that’s open to alternative spiritual practices. 

Pub Date: April 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-982202-00-2

Page Count: 210

Publisher: BalboaPress

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2018

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE

A compilation of advice from the Queen of All Media.

After writing a column for 14 years titled “What I Know For Sure” for O, The Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Winfrey brings together the highlights into one gift-ready collection. Grouped into themes like Joy, Resilience, Connection, Gratitude, Possibility, Awe, Clarity and Power, each short essay is the distilled thought of a woman who has taken the time to contemplate her life’s journey thus far. Whether she is discussing traveling across the country with her good friend, Gayle, the life she shares with her dogs or building a fire in the fireplace, Winfrey takes each moment and finds the good in it, takes pride in having lived it and embraces the message she’s received from that particular time. Through her actions and her words, she shows readers how she's turned potentially negative moments into life-enhancing experiences, how she's found bliss in simple pleasures like a perfectly ripe peach, and how she's overcome social anxiety to become part of a bigger community. She discusses the yo-yo dieting, exercise and calorie counting she endured for almost two decades as she tried to modify her physical body into something it was not meant to be, and how one day she decided she needed to be grateful for each and every body part: "This is the body you've been given—love what you've got." Since all of the sections are brief and many of the essays are only a couple paragraphs long—and many members of the target audience will have already read them in the magazine—they are best digested in short segments in order to absorb Winfrey's positive and joyful but repetitive message. The book also features a new introduction by the author.

Honest messages from one of America's best known women.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1250054050

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Flatiron View Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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