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August 29, 2016

Survival Lessons


Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman
Nonfiction Essays
2013 by Algonquin Books
Finished on March 31, 2016
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

One of America's most beloved writers shares her suggestions for finding beauty in the world even during the toughest times.

Survival lessons provides a road map of how to reclaim your life from this day forward, with ways to reenvision everything--from relationships with friends and family to the way you see yourself. As Alice Hoffman says, "In many ways I wrote Survival Lessons to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that's all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts of sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other. I wrote to remind myself that despite everything that was happening to me, there were still choices I could make."

Wise, gentle, and wry, Alice Hoffman teaches us all how to choose what matters most.


This slim book (a mere 83 pages) can easily be read in an afternoon, but I chose to sample a few chapters at a time, allowing each to sink in before moving on to the next. I have a few pages marked with Post-It flags, but in spite of discovering a few gems, I was hoping for a bit more substance. 

I've always believed there is a very thin line that separates readers and writers. You make a leap over that line when there's a book you want to read and you can't find it and you have to write it yourself. All the while I was in treatment [breast cancer] I was looking for a guidebook. I needed help in my new situation. I needed to know how people survived.

It took all this time for me to figure out what I would have most wanted to hear when I was newly diagnosed, when I lost the people I loved, when I was deeply disappointed in myself and the turns my life had taken. In many ways I wrote this book to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that's all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. There were many times when I forgot about roses and starry nights. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other. This is what makes us human. This is why our world is so precious. I wrote to remind myself that in the darkest hour the roses still bloom, the stars still come out at night. And too remind myself that, despite everything that was happening to me, there were still choices I could make. 

Final Thoughts:

I've read several novels by Alice Hoffman, so I was curious when I saw this small book on the shelf in the health/cancer section of the store. It's a short, sweet book that would make a nice gift for someone going through a difficult time, whether that be cancer or the loss of a loved one.

8 comments:

  1. Her fiction is hit or miss for me but this sounds like a nice, thoughtful book. I might check it out.

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    1. Kathy, her fiction is hit or miss for me, too. This was a nice book, but not all that memorable.

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  2. I have enjoyed Alice Hoffman in years past, and I'm glad to know about this "little" book. It's always good to have a repertoire of books dealing with sorrow for when the need arises as it all too frequently does.

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    1. Meredith, I have also enjoyed Hoffman's novels over the years, but none stand out as stellar reads that I want to pick up again. This is a nice little book that would make for a good gift, but I hope I don't have to send it to anyone anytime soon.

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  3. We do need the reminder that life is wonderful when it doesn't feel like it is.

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    1. Deb, yes we do! This wasn't a bad read, but I think I have others that I would rather send to a friend in need of comfort...

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  4. Sounds like a book with a good message!

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    1. Iliana, it is, but it wasn't quite as good as I was hoping for.

      BTW, thanks for all the recent comments. You are such a great blogging friend! xo

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