A well-intentioned but meandering meditation on pain and healing.

You Can't Un-Ring the Bell


A seasoned psychologist offers wisdom and experience about facing life’s hardships in this compact self-help volume.

Gilbert (What Are You Pretending Not to Know, 2005) uses the metaphor of a ringing bell to illustrate the myriad challenges that one must confront in modern life. The bell, in this case, is a signal that one must deal with something, whether it’s cancer, failure, addiction, past trauma, or the death of a loved one. By sharing her own experiences as a mental health professional, as well as lessons from her Christian faith, Gilbert encourages readers to acknowledge the bells in their own lives and asserts that everyone holds the power to heal themselves. She introduces several tools to begin the healing process. Reframing, she says, helps people see their problems in a new way (“if we think we are powerless, then we are!”), while acceptance allows them to address said problems: “We can’t face what we haven’t identified,” she writes. When not discussing these tools, she shares anecdotes, including her experiences counseling incarcerated people and helping members of the Columbine, Colorado, community in the wake of the fatal 1999 school shooting. Some of her advice is global (“What a positive difference we could all make if we were committed to helping each other heal”), some is scaled-down and personal (“we CHOOSE our emotions!”). The positive tone continues to the concluding chapter, which includes a helpful summary of the tools and ideas set forth. Gilbert writes in a welcoming voice, and her vast experience effectively colors advice that otherwise might have fallen flat. But although the book begins with a clear desire to help people understand their problems, the bell metaphor quickly gets muddled. Bells are said to be challenges, but they’re also said to be truths that can be “rung” by others. In the end, the most consistent message is the use of Christian faith in facing life’s difficulties: “God’s grace is big enough to cover all the bells.” This may disappoint readers hoping for more psychological advice than spiritual comfort. 

A well-intentioned but meandering meditation on pain and healing.

Pub Date: March 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5127-3431-7

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Westbow Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.


New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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The name of C.S. Lewis will no doubt attract many readers to this volume, for he has won a splendid reputation by his brilliant writing. These sermons, however, are so abstruse, so involved and so dull that few of those who pick up the volume will finish it. There is none of the satire of the Screw Tape Letters, none of the practicality of some of his later radio addresses, none of the directness of some of his earlier theological books.

Pub Date: June 15, 1949

ISBN: 0060653205

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1949

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