An intriguing guide to living a happier, more peaceful life.

THE MONSTERS IN OUR CLOSETS

An insightful exploration of how the human psyche integrates emotional trauma and suggestions on how to combat its destructive effects.

Mixing practical information with individual testimonies, Novak, a licensed clinical social worker, illuminates how people frequently avoid the pain that results from difficult experiences by burying emotions deep within the psyche. Unattended, this trapped baggage often festers, radiating from the subconscious and generating a wide array of toxic effects: low self-esteem, uncontrollable anxiety, debilitating anger and dysfunctional relationships among them. If the author’s deliberate, methodical explanations seem redundant, fear not, for Novak clearly presents her material in a highly engaging way. According to the author, the psyche deals with significant conflict by either effectively integrating the subsequent emotions or storing and avoiding those feelings. Storage and avoidance, though, require considerably more energy to maintain. As personal trauma has a tendency to continue throughout life, the psyche runs the risk of filling beyond capacity, often resulting in emotional numbing, flashbacks, psychic drain or unmanageable stress. The author employs a terrific use of allegory to illustrate her ideas. She likens the need to medicate while undergoing therapy to the use of anesthesia during dental drilling and compares a person who repeatedly buries the memory of harmful experiences with a fire alarm whose batteries have been removed. Novak is particularly sharp when addressing addiction in all its guises, from alcoholism to promiscuous sex to self-destructive shopping. In addition to creating a buzz that serves to distract the psyche from recognizing lingering pain, addictions demand considerable attention and energy that could otherwise be spent processing harmful buried feelings. Novak provides prompts for journal writing throughout the text and concludes her work with suggestions–cognitive techniques and metatherapies–to assist readers who wish to begin purging their psyches of pent-up and painful memories.

An intriguing guide to living a happier, more peaceful life.

Pub Date: May 23, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-97996643-0-5

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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