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The Passage: A Novel ~Michael Hurley

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Give a middle aged American Irishman a bar fight, put him on his sailboat headed to Ireland to find the true taste of Guinness and an amazing story emerges from Hurley’s imagination.   I could not put this book down, I was possessed by the story and the frame and range of the surface right to the depth the heart can reach.

I am so very happy Mr. Hurley asked me if I wanted to read it and that he sent me a PDF copy.  WOW.  Lucky ME!

I even read THE PASSAGE on two 4-hour car rides.  I could totally identify with the main character’s life – “Fitz” was just right and complete and steadfast and I just wanted to know how he was fairing on his path to salvation, redemption and his progress to shore up his self-worth.  The tragedies and mistakes were sublime and the droplets of humor and descriptions just tickled and delighted my imagination – holding my attention steadfastly.

Several years ago I reviewed another of Hurley’s books – THE VINEYARD.  The story was interesting and well written, but I could not identify with any of the 3 women characters.  None of them became real.  The book went on to win awards and I just thought “Oh well, we all have different tastes in reading.”

The twists and turns in the writing of this novel, were remarkably paced and just slid into this readers psyche with sometimes a sigh, a laugh or a didn’t see that coming.  It is so like life – no matter the taste of Guinness – no matter where.

“Do you believe in everlasting Love?”

My favorite quote came at PDF page 146: “Genre fiction uses plot to tell you a story about someone else’s life.  Classic fiction uses characterizations to tell you a story about yourself.”

What is holding onto you?  What is making you define yourself incorrectly?  How do you care and like yourself?  What pieces/peaces are you missing in your own journey?  What are the meanings you hold dear? And are those things, which you value – programed at age 10 true or false?

Life is definitely a journey and a process and so many of us have a middle-aged change of heart and endeavor.  It would be hard not to relate to this character and his story.  Irish magic just short of leprechauns and fairies adds just the right leverage to this tale.  I am passing this on to several friends for sure.

A remarkable read and I would give it a “10” and hope that it might reach the award phase and become a best seller.

About the Author (from book cover)

“Michael Hurley is the author of three novels and several works of nonfiction.  His debut novel, THE PRODIGAL, won the Chanticleer Reviews Grand Prize for Book of the Year in 2013.  This second novel, THE VINEYARD, won the 2015 Eric Hoffer Award for General Fiction.  A memoir, ONCE UPON A GYPSY MOM, was published in 2013 by Hachette Book Group.  His essay collection, LETTERS FROM THE WOODS, was shortlisted for Book of the Year in 2005 by ForeWard Reviews.  Between 1995 and 2003, he published a quarterly literary journal on wilderness canoeing, now collected in single hardcover volume entitled HURLEY’S JOURNAL.  He wrote THE PASSAGE while living in England and Wales.  He keeps a journal and stays in touch with readers on his website, www.mchurley.com

The Vineyard
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

DARING MY PASSAGES: a Memoir ~Gail Sheehy

Monday, September 29th, 2014

“’ The Change’ was not a curse that turned older women into victims; it was a freedom that allowed older women to stop trying so hard to please.” (p365)

“His study (Erik Erikson) found that men only moved on to the next period of development when they began working at a new task and built a new structure for their lives.” (p. 213)

In the 1970’s millions of readers celebrated Gail Sheehy’s amazing book PASSAGES.  She shared with us that adults keep growing, changing and developing and were not fixed beings unable to change.   Sheehy was a journalist and reporter, who did her homework and made her living writing primarily for magazines; she developed quite amazing ideas centered on questions that people were asking themselves as they worked through their lives.  As a single mother, with her own life challenges, Sheehy had a knack for discovering the important questions of the time.   DARING MY PASSAGES the author shares with us her wisdom and hindsight of how she experienced those passages and her own developments and changes.

Sheehy is the author of one of Oprah’s favorite quotes:  “You can have it all, just not at the same time.”

The book begins with Sheehy’s interesting childhood and her gutsy moves when swimming or taking the train by her very, young self into New York City from a sleepy town north.  Dad was driven but not happy and mom was becoming an alcoholic to cope.  Her mother had extremely limited options and Gail could see the problems clearly.  This set the stage for a driven perfectionism.  She always did her homework and more research than what was needed, questioning and writing, and she created a new form of journalistic interviewing techniques formed by these characteristics.

Sheehy married a medical student, Albert Sheehy, who was the father of her daughter, after putting her husband through school the marriage, was broken and she took on the role of single mom and breadwinner in a daring move. She had gotten a job with J.C.Penney and was helping Penney develop his human resources and build character and wholeness in his employees.  From there she began writing for the Herald Tribune and New York Magazine.  Her peers read like a who’s-who of journalistic name dropping: Eugenia Sheppard, Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Betty Friedan,  Phil Spector, Ken Kesey, Andy Warhol, Saul Bellows, Gloria Steinem, Clay Felker, Dick Frost; the stories she shares about competition and bonding over all the questions young women were exploring in the 50s and 60s to the adult contemporary concerns were exciting to revisit.

I could not put this fascinating book down, it was important to me to revisit that experience and those heady times.

Oh, and the folks that she interviewed and wrote articles about are fascinating, well worth the read for the backstories.  Sheehy shares a great deal of gratitude to everyone in her life and from whom she learned so much.  I have read all of her books over the years and have gained from her perspective and voice.  I think this is a valuable read and a good perspective to take into our future.

From the Book Jacket:  “Fascinating and no-holds-barred, DARING MY PASSAGES is a testament to guts, resilience, and smarts, and offers a bold perspective on all of life’s passages.”

“GAIL SHEEHY is the author of sixteen books, including the classic New York Times bestseller PASSAGES, named one the of the ten most influential books of our times by the Library of Congress.  A multiple-award-winning literary journalist, she was one of the original contributors to NEW YORK magazine and has been contributing editor to VANITY FAIR since 1984. A popular lecturer, Sheehy was named AARP’s ambassador of Caregiving in 2009.  She lives in NYC.”

Twitter @Gail_Sheehy.#DoYouDare
tlc logo TLC Online Book Tours   sent me a finished hardbound copy of this book to review and William Morrow publishing is offering a free copy for a great comment by October 10,2014 USA/Canada.

DARING MY PASSAGES is well worth the read and a comment.

Did you like Passages?  Do You like Memoir?   Did you lives through all these passages?

The Signature of All Things
Daring Greatly
When Women Were Birds

Unfinished Business: One Man’s Extraordinary Year of Trying to do the Right Things ~Lee Kravitz

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

unfinished business

Unfinished Business is a wonderful autobiography of a man’s life.  It is one of those new life stories that just picks one aspect of the life and then tucks in other pieces of the journey as necessary to complete the picture.  Lee Kravitz is working with the question of what are aspects of his life that he has been ignoring because of current endeavors; which of these items would make the meaning of his life more worthwhile if he gave them some attention and resolution.

He is an admitted workaholic journalist, who had a top of the line position in the powerful eastern seaboard of the USA.  He was married later in life and he was letting his wife do most of the parenting while working hard and long at keeping their finances secure and forthcoming.  Then he was “let go” with a good severance package in the economic downturn.  His wife persuaded him to go to a meditation retreat and with her support he decided to take a year to uncover and complete some of the unfinished business in his life.


Gail Sheehy begins the foreword, “Lee Kravitz loved his work.  He lived it.  It was not only his identity, it was his demon.  Like many men in high-powered careers, his mind was almost always occupied by his work, even if his body was at home or on vacation.”

Kravitz compiled a list of important connections to remedy in his life and settled on the top ten.  He also wanted to find more time to spend with his children and free up his wife to focus on her own business she was creating.  This top ten seemed as though it was a list that could be completed.

1.Finding a long lost relative
2.Making a condolence call
3.Repaying a long overdue debt
4.Reaching out to a distant friend
5.Letting go of a grudge
6.Seeking spiritual guidance from a mentor
7.Taking the road not taken
8. Healing family wounds
9.Eulogizing a loved one
10.Keeping a promise

My favorite quotes about Kravitz journey came from his mentor, who it turns out just may have been a mentor to me, when I lived in Cleveland, Ohio during my high school years!

“Love takes work.  It demands that you put yourself in the shoes of another person- and understand where that person is coming from – before you speak or act.”

“Love of this sort can be inconvenient, unpleasant, and costly.”      Tony Jarvis

I think we are going to be seeing quite a few more of this style of book in the market place in the near future.  I have dubbed them the Boomer Generation Manuals:  how to change gears and move forward in life as the rules and paradigms change; often written by out of work and what to do next folks.

This book does include a study guide for book groups and a how to start and work on your own UNFINISHED BUSINESS guide.    For more information one can go to the book site and share your own personal stories and get tips on how to get started.

This book was written by a journalist, who has a beautiful command of the English language and uses his words with style and grace.   It is a very nice book to read.   I think it could inspire many individuals to take care of their own UNFINISHED BUSINESS and to connect graciously with their family and friends.  I can envision support groups and study groups gathering around this topic similar to the Voluntary Simplicity Movement

I rate this book 5-Ladybugs

Two more thoughts about this book:  First, I was very happy that I squeezed in three novels between reading the list of self-help books I have been reviewing lately and secondly, I would like to know where Mr. Kravitz is working now after he lost his job and his “take” on ageism in the workplace – as not all of us are going to get good severance packages.

I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury-Walker & Co. publishers and am participating in the TLC Online book tours.    If you purchase this book from my site via Amazon I will receive a few beans in my bucket.


Have you got some unfinished business that you need to take care of as you age?

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Related Reading:

The Wisdom To Know the Difference
The Courage to Be Free
The Love Ceiling
What Should I Do With the Rest of My Life