Saturday, August 13, 2016

Navigating Life

Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me by Margaux Bergen
Penguin Publishing Group: 8/2/16
eBook review copy; 256 pages
ISBN-13: 9781594206290

Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me by Margaux Bergen is a recommended guide to life for those just starting out on their own. Bergen wrote the eight essays for her own children, starting when her oldest daughter, Charlotte, was nine, and gave her the guide when she left for college.

Bergen writes:
"Three questions: Who are you? To what are you committed? How will you serve? Ask them over and over. You may never fully answer, but the process of posing these questions raises the possibility of developing a conscious and caring engagement with the world.
My vision: that this record will arm you with a loving and practical text as you leave and start navigating your way through life, so you may always ask the questions: who am I and how may I be of use to others?
My aim: to raise, kind, civilized, thoughtful, and aware children. And please, Jesus, ones that will also learn to pay their bills on time, receive more than they broadcast, empty the dishwasher, write timely thank-you notes, read the paper, and look kindly on the world.
My hope: that this life chronicle might offer a map to guide you in becoming adults who are curious and empathetic, strong and warm, practical and, above all, good listeners."

"This is what you need: the ability to write clearly, to think deeply and critically, and finally to own your knowledge, which will arm you in the world of work and grown-ups. The ability to develop a point of view, even if you aren’t an expert, is valuable. So read the paper, listen to the news, and talk to your friends. Then own your opinion. Or, as I have done occasionally when I can’t make up my mind, talk to someone whose mind you respect. Never underestimate the value of a good conversation. That is one of the first rules of adult life."

The essays are mainly a series of anecdotes and reminiscences of Bergen's life, therefore it feels more like an autobiography. It is an honest account and full of practical tips, but most of the suggestions about living well that are more universally applicable to all are at the end of the book.

The beginning starts strong, with all the hopes of what she'd like to share, as expressed in the excerpts above, but then the book became way too anecdotal for me. I have read much stronger and more succinct treatises on starting out your adult life that were better suited to a much wider audience of new graduates. This is hardly a good guide for everyone who is starting to navigate adult life. It's worthwhile, but the appeal will largely be limited based on the content.

One of the most insightful comments is this: "Words hang in the air. They lodge in your soul. They can unwittingly inform our actions and responses for decades." This is clearly a Biblical principle that people have been exposed to for centuries. In fact, many of the words of wisdom and little gems found within this discourse can be found in countless other places. The question is more on presentation. If you like anecdotal stories with your words of advice then this may be a good choice.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.

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