THE WISHING YEAR by Noelle Oxenhandler


An Experiment in Desire
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Middle-aged woman asks the universe for everything she wants and is met with mixed results.

Oxenhandler (Creative Writing/Sonoma State Univ.; The Eros of Parenthood, 2001, etc.) mines her quotidian ups and downs during a 12-month period with the exacting honesty and hopefulness of a Buddhist Anne Lamott. At the beginning of the year, the author articulates exactly what she wishes for at the behest of her friend Carole, an eccentric artist in possession of four homes (three of them in France) who usually “finds a way to acquire” everything she wants. Oxenhandler’s chief desires are to own a house and find a romantic partner. Over the next several months, she undertakes everything from building shrines in the likeness of her individual wishes to reading a vast array of books on the subject of manifesting desire. As a practicing Buddhist, she has long eschewed the open hunger for material things; her shift on this subject comprises one of the book’s more interesting aspects. Doors begin to open: She has an opportunity to buy the house she’s been renting in northern California, and she meets a man who possesses every quality she’d hoped for in a mate. The greatest challenge here involves maintaining the reader’s interest, which may wane in the absence of any major dramatic tension. Descriptions of myriad encounters with friends too plentiful to name sometimes grate, as does Oxenhandler’s freehanded way with quotations. The chapter in which she tries to “wish away a wart” is hardly engrossing. Ultimately, though, following her through a generally successful year, readers come away with the feeling that there’s something wonderfully quixotic about her belief in the power of wishing.

An oddball but endearing combination of meticulous research and winsome enthusiasm.

Pub Date: July 8th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6485-4
Page count: 282pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2008