Monday, November 18, 2013

Survival Lessons; Alice Hoffman

Algonquin - 2013

I've enjoyed many of Alice Hoffman's works of fiction in the past, but I wasn't sure what to make of her most recent book, Survival Lessons, which is non fiction.  I was surprised to learn that 15 years ago, the author was diagnosed with breast cancer.

In this slim book, just 81 pages, Ms Hoffman shares bits of wisdom about how she coped with her diagnosis and subsequent treatment. She reflects on what helped her get through an extremely difficult time in her life,  stressing how important it was to focus on the positive and to do the things we love. 

Her past experience reinforces how important it is to enjoy time spent with friends and family, but only those who are truly concerned and supportive of our difficult situation. She gives us permission to let go of the people who are dragging us down and those who are not there for us when  the going gets rough and you need them the most.

Although the author shares some personal elements about her somewhat sad childhood, an absent father and depressed mother, I found the book to be more life affirming than depressing. We all experience bad times in our life, and we all heal in different ways. For each of our sorrows, most of us find equal amounts of joy in our life as well -- look for the little things and reasons to be happy.

One of my favorite passages was: "There is always a before and an after.  My advice, travel light. Choose only what you need most to see you through."

Much of the advice gives are things that we already know, yet the book is just so inspirational. I do think this book would make a thoughtful gift for a sister, a woman friend, or a coworker who is going through a difficult time in their life.  

4/5 stars

(eGalley received through NetGalley)


  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this one, Diane. I agree it would be a thoughtful gift for someone going through a similar experience as Hoffman's.

  2. I listened to this on audio and loved it. I plan to buy a print copy because there were so many lines I wanted to note.

  3. This sounds fabulous. I love it when seasoned, well-loved authors use their skill with language to share their insights and wisdom - it's a real gift.

  4. Now that I think about it, I don't think I have read any of Hoffman's books.

  5. I usually enjoy Hoffman's books, but I was uncertain about this one. But now, after reading your review, I'm adding it again to my list. I like inspirational books!

  6. This sounds like a great little book. I read an article about it which said that Alice Hoffman wrote it to inspire people and to encourage more positive thinking than depression and worry. It certainly sounds like a book that could help people in a gentle way rather than a lecturing, aggressive way.

  7. This sounds wonderful! It's not too long and seems like a quick read filled with wisdom.

  8. That is a wonderful quote, Diane. I can see why you liked it. I am not sure I would read something like this, but I do enjoy Hoffman's fiction.

  9. This does sound like it would be inspirational--a guide for good times as well as rough times. There are times when a book like this is just what I need.

  10. I like hoffman and I didn't realize what this new title was. Probably not something I;m in the mood for now, but I love the quote. It's something I need to spend more time cultivating.


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