The subtitle of this book 'care instructions for an ordinary life' really says it all. As a mother, I am a fan of Ms. Miller's first book, Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood, and was looking forward to this one. And it doesn't disappoint, although it is a very different book. In this book, Ms. Miller applies her samurai-like pen - and insight - to topics beyond motherhood, including divorce, marriage, aging (and dying) parents, gardening, and of course, laundry.
Ms. Miller is a Zen practitioner and priest, but you shouldn't read or not-read this book based on any preconceptions you may have about that. Although every sentence shines with Zen wisdom, you won't find descriptions of what Zen is or isn't, or what practices you should or shouldn't do. Instead this reads like a memoir, as Ms. Miller 'excavates' her past - parts of her childhood, her relationship with her parents, the break-up of her first marriage, and the personal darkness that eventually led her to a Zen retreat with Maezumi Roshi, who became her teacher. She shares her journey to becoming 'happy and whole' again, and then writes about living from this wisdom on a day to day basis, in her current marriage, in her parenting, in her gardening and housework and writing career - in all the elements of her 'ordinary life'.
Ms. Miller is an extraordinary writer, and uses the idea of doing our own laundry as a metaphor for our spiritual work throughout the book, without it ever becoming trite (although as the prior reviewer mentioned, it's also NOT a metaphor - she is really talking about doing our own laundry too!) She excels at pinpointing her own past delusions, and thus helps us see our own. She manages to be both an everywoman and a Zen priest, but as a reader you never feel like you are being conned or preached to. It's a breath of fresh air, really.
Can you tell I liked this book? It really was a joy to read, both because of the personal sharing and the writing. I think almost anyone, especially any woman, would enjoy reading it. And if you are interested in Zen, well, this is living Zen.