By Deborah Collins Stephens, Jackie Speier, Michealene Cristini Risley, Jan Yanehiro (Conari Press, 2007)
Coauthored by four accomplished women who are also lifetime friends and kitchen-table confidantes, This Is Not the Life I Ordered is a no-nonsense and warmhearted guide to help women survive and thrive throughout life’s more unwelcome transitions. These straight-talking gals cover everything from the trials of career building and teen wrangling to the extreme challenges of divorce, widowhood and cancer — all of which at least several of the authors have survived; one was even shot on an airport tarmac in Guyana while she was a congressional aide investigating the Jonestown cult. Needless to say, these are some tough cookies, and the wisdom of their experience is worth appreciating. The book’s 50 tips are clearly stated — like “make great mistakes” and “listen to your beliefs, not your doubts” — and each chapter concludes by consolidating its insights and suggestions into a bite-size WIT kit (for “women in transition”) with journaling exercises to bring the knowledge home. Even if the packaging seems conventionally self-help, this timeless advice about self-respect and self-care is well worth heeding. And though the book is aimed mainly toward women, it’s still a great source of support for anyone seeking the wisdom that can emerge from tough times.