In this memoir, a psychotherapist recounts how she found meaning in her life through growth as a sexual being, creative artist, and spiritual individual.
Reis (Daughters of Saturn, 2006, etc.), born in 1940, writes that her memoir is “about making meaning at midlife,” a more difficult undertaking for women than the culture acknowledges. Reis looks at concerns like sex, money, meaningful work, partnership, and—crucially—her “place in a female lineage that was my birthright as a woman.” Her relationship with her mother, as well as correspondence and visits over many years with Ruth, a nun and Reis’ aunt, forms an important thread throughout the book. Reis’ dreams become another significant theme. After a degree in English literature, two illegal abortions, three marriages, and three divorces by her late 30s, she entered an MFA program in art at UCLA, financed by a large settlement from a divorce. This would allow her to pursue reading, world travel, artmaking, writing, feminist scholarship, vision quests, and a second master’s degree, in 1984, in depth psychology. Reis lived briefly “as a New Age nun” and a lesbian; in 1985, she met Jim Harrod, a psychotherapist and scholar of philosophical theology. They felt deeply connected, and she moved to Maine, Harrod’s home, where she began her psychotherapy practice. The two had an unofficial marriage ceremony in 1987. Over her life’s course, Reis concludes she was her “own still-unfolding revelation.” In presenting her story, the author speaks to women looking for a model of a life’s journey—not the hero’s journey so familiar from writers like Joseph Campbell, but a woman’s spiraling, reflective, meditative path, one that fully acknowledges relationships, community, and love. Many readers should be able to relate to her candidly reported explorations. But Reis doesn’t always fully acknowledge her privilege and agency. Of the hefty divorce settlement, she asks: “What price can be put on lost dreams?” And she describes euthanizing her two aging but healthy “country dogs” on moving to Los Angeles as a “loss” demanded of her, not a choice.
A spiritual autobiography especially strong in showing the importance of women as guides.