The daughter of a widowed child psychologist and parenting author, Jessica Lamb-Shapiro grew up immersed in the culture of self-help, of books and pamphlets and board games and gadgets and endless jargon-filled conversations about feelings. Read more...
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The daughter of a widowed child psychologist and parenting author, Jessica Lamb-Shapiro grew up immersed in the culture of self-help, of books and pamphlets and board games and gadgets and endless jargon-filled conversations about feelings. It wasn't until she hit her thirties that Jessica began to wonder: if all this self-improvement arcana was as helpful as it promised to be, why wasn't she better adjusted? She had a flying phobia, hadn't settled down, and didn't like to talk about her feelings.
Thus began Jessica's fascination with the eccentric and labyrinthine world of self-help. She read hundreds of books and articles, attended dating seminars, walked on hot coals, and attempted to conquer her fear of flying. But even as she made light of the sometimes dubious effectiveness of these as-seen-on-TV treatments, she slowly began to realize she was circling a much larger problem: her mother's death when she was a toddler, and the almost complete silence that she and her father had always observed on the subject.
In the tradition of Augusten Burroughs, Jessica Lamb-Shapiro illuminates the peculiar neuroses and inalterable truths that bind families together, whether they choose to confront them or not. "Promise Land" is a tender, witty, and wise account of a young woman's journey through her own psyche toward the most difficult stage of grown-up emotional life: acceptance.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-11-04
- Reviewer: Staff
Through trial-and-error and historical accounts, Lamb-Shapiro fearlessly peers into the world of self-help culture, painting a sincere and hilarious picture of the personalities and ideas found in this field of self-promotion and discovery. Lamb-Shapiro, whose father is a child psychologist and self-help author, addresses her own difficulties in attempting to deal with the death of her mother—whom she never knew—and how working on this book led her towards closure. She tackles her own doubts and fears—of both the self-help industry and her own personal anxieties—admirably, detailing every hesitation and troubling encounter. The reader learns alongside the author of heartbreak within this form of therapy, with Lamb-Shapiro dissecting the reality of the field and its methods of attracting followers. Still, there are moments of wonder—does self-help really work and, if so, for whom? Regardless of the answer, Lamb-Shapiro’s journey through self-help culture fascinates and entertains, and as much as it also serves as a quasi-memoir, it excels. Teetering between believer and skeptic, she interweaves the history of self-help, introducing the movers and shakers of the business while providing intimate and moving stories that illuminate personal desires for support and guidance. Agent: Henry Dunow; Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Jan.)