Women in Transition: Life-Changing Memoirs | The Reader’s Shelf, May 1, 2012

Often change is thrust upon us through the loss of a job, a spouse, a relationship, or even aging‚ circumstances beyond our control. But we may also choose change to make ourselves happier or healthier. In these memoirs, six women share personal stories of how they handle transition and adapting to marital separation, failed relationships, job loss, a new career, aging, and finding peace.

Overwhelmed by the thought of starting over, Joan Anderson refuses to relocate with her husband when he finds a new job hundreds of miles from their home. She retreats to their Cape Cod cottage where she enjoys the freedom of not being responsible for others after a lifetime of trying to make everyone else happy. Anderson’s A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman (Broadway. 2000. ISBN 9780767905930. pap. $13.95) is beautifully evocative, whether she is describing working at the fish market to support herself, swimming with the seals, or following the seasons. Her story, of a woman finding herself through a year of introspection, typifies much that readers enjoy in this genre.

feast1 Women in Transition: Life Changing Memoirs | The Readers Shelf,  May 1, 2012After Robin Mather loses her job at the Chicago Tribune and her marriage breaks up in the same week, she moves to her lakeside cabin in the Michigan woods, along with her standard poodle Boon and her African grey parrot Pippin. There, she learns to be self-sufficient, eating locally produced food on $40 a week as she comes to terms with her new life in The Feast Nearby (Ten Speed: Crown. 2011. ISBN 9781580085588. $24). A food journalist, Mather is used to eating well, and she is determined to continue this tradition, by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving vegetables and fruits, and bartering.

When Dominique Browning, the successful editor of House & Garden for almost 13 years, is laid off after the magazine folds, she falls apart without her work to give structure to her life. She also must deal with empty-nest syndrome, the sale of her much-loved home, her move to her vacation house in Rhode Island, and the end of a volatile, long-term relationship. In Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas & Found Happiness (Plume: Penguin Group [USA]. 2011. ISBN 9780452297500. pap. $15), Browning pulls herself together by baking, gardening, paring down her possessions, and beginning a freelance writing career. She also explores her past with Stroller, her ambivalent, legally separated but not yet divorced boyfriend of seven years, to determine why their relationship ultimately failed after multiple breakups and reunions.

peace Women in Transition: Life Changing Memoirs | The Readers Shelf,  May 1, 2012Margaret Roach quits her job to find an identity beyond that of a successful executive with 32 years spent in the corporate world and to discover a more peaceful life. But who is she if she is not mroach@marthastewart.com? We follow her journey in And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road (Grand Central. 2012. ISBN 9780446556101. pap. $14.99). Roach relocates to her weekend house in upstate New York and begins a freelance writing career while learning to deal with frightening electric storms, a rattlesnake at her back door, and all the worries that come with living alone. Woven throughout with her love of gardening and nature, as well as her quest to find love, Roach’s memoir traces how she becomes comfortable in her new life.

After spending 48 years creating and caring for her large garden with minimal help, garden writer Sydney Eddison discovers she can no longer handle its horticultural demands. She doesn’t want to move, so she finds ways to make gardening easier and more affordable. Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older (Timber. 2011. ISBN 9781604692662. pap. $14.95) draws on a lifetime of experience to offer aging gardeners tips on how to scale back so they can continue to enjoy their favorite hobby.

After years of suffering from anxiety and debilitating panic attacks, Priscilla Warner decides she wants the brain of a monk, to experience peace, tranquility, compassion, kindness, wisdom, and patience. In Learning to Breathe: My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life (Free Pr: S. & S. 2011. ISBN 9781439181072. $23), Warner tries a variety of techniques‚ meditation, chanting, guided imagery‚ to calm her mind and reduce her dependence on medication. She attends retreats, explores Jewish mysticism, and participates in the mikvah (Jewish ritual bath). Warner lets the reader experience the techniques she investigates as she discovers peace by the end of the year.

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Neal Wyatt About Neal Wyatt

Neal Wyatt compiles LJ's online feature Wyatt's World and is the author of The Readers' Advisory Guide to Nonfiction (ALA Editions, 2007). She is a collection development and readers' advisory librarian from Virginia. Those interested in contributing to The Reader's Shelf should contact her directly at Readers_Shelf@comcast.net

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