Seeking Enlightenment Hat By Hat Hardcover – Jun 3 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
"A life ago," Barr writes, "I was depressed, broke, homeless, unemployed and divorced." One evening she wandered into an Episcopal church, primarily because it was unlocked. Desperation, not interest in religion, had brought her there, but warmly accepting parishioners kept her, and soon she wanted to be confirmed. "I went to the priest and asked him if it would be okay considering I didn't accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior, didn't believe the Bible was divinely inspired and wasn't entirely sure about the whole God thing. Fortunately Father Andrew had been tending his flock long enough to recognize a lost lamb when one came bleating into his office and put no obstacles in my way." It was a turning point for Barr, who here describes the resulting changes in her life and thinking over the last six years. Readers of Barr's bestselling mystery series featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon might have hoped for a whole book full of enlightenment about Anna's creator. However, apart from the introduction and occasional anecdotes throughout, her first nonfiction work is more a collection of personal essays than spiritual memoir. In more than 40 short chapters, she looks at topics as varied as forgiveness, girlfriends, being ordinary, Halloween and of course hats, usually saying more about how she thinks life should be lived than about how she actually lives hers. Nevertheless, Barr's sassy style, self-deprecating sense of humor and trenchant observations make for a good-and, yes, enlightening-read.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
There is something about having survived a serious bout of clinical depression that causes a person to look inward in an effort to find meaning. For popular mystery writer Nevada Barr, author of the Anna Pigeon series, depression set off a chain of events that led her to embrace religion and spirituality. In these short essays, she charts the course of her spiritual evolution, how she sought to understand the many aspects of spiritual life, from forgiveness ("a sigh of relief on which the memory of evil is breathed out ") to pain ("it is a duty to relieve our own pain") to commitment ("not a contract with the world but with the self"). Barr's account of her transformation from nonbeliever to committed churchgoer--but one who maintains a healthy sense of doubt even as she prays and attends Bible studies--is moving but never saccharine. Her conclusion that one can believe in God (or any other higher being) and still live a life based on logic should appeal to other skeptics. Managing to be inspirational as well as practical, Barr finds in spirituality a way to get beyond self-centeredness: "It was a number of years of crashing and burning in the personal arena before I made the discovery that I was not God." Mary Frances Wilkens
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Having made my living much of my life by writing fiction, I know when I, or those around me, are making things up, when our plotlines drift free of the earth and we begin to weave tales of explanation, justification or-in most cases-tales of what we would like our story to be. Read the first page
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Top Customer Reviews
I must admit I was hoping for a narrative story, as befitting a novelist who creates magnificent plots, believeable 3D characters and, above all, scene and place. Instead, we get a series of unrelated musings that could have been written by almost any decent writer. There's a bit of humor, as when Barr asks to be confirmed, although she doesn't accept Jesus as her personal savior, and the priest agrees. Yet in the end we're served a fairly standard helping of, "I sinned, I saw the light, here's what I believe now."
There's a tantalizing glimpse into Barr's life, when she says she'd rather be a tiger's lunch than a conforming member of a pod. And we learn she's experienced depression, addiction, betrayal, joblessness and more. Yet there's no sense of how she put the pieces together to arrive not only whole, but wildly successful.
I was interested to learn that all the experts agree on two keys to relieving depression: exercise and service. Nothing new about exercise -- but what type of service does Barr take up? Not everyone is cut out for standard volunteer options. Some folks are better off making pots of money and donating so that others might serve hands-on.
Of course Barr writes well, although there's less style evident here than I would have expected.Read more ›
In short and easy subject-based chapters, Barr reveals her basic philosophies of life. Readers can decide whether or not they agree with her conclusions. There's no pressure here...except perhaps for the chapter called "Do animals have souls?", which begins with the succinct first paragraph: "Of course they do. Don't be an idiot." (Hear! hear!) I found myself smiling at and re-reading some passages and later hurrying over others. Sometimes the stories sounded so close to the experiences of friends that I made a mental note to share this book with those folks after I'm finished with it. Or better yet, I'll buy and distribute copies as gifts.
Some fans will pick this book up because of the author's name and will leave most of it unread when they realize it's not another Anna Pigeon mystery. The more curious ones will continue on with an eye to compare Nevada's background, beliefs, and behaviors with Anna's. They'll nod in satisfaction when some of Anna's history does indeed show up in Nevada's own life. Still others will savor these casual observations enough to sit down and think about their own philosophies. If a busy mystery writer can take the time to contemplate Life, why can't we?
SEEKING ENLIGHTENMENT HAT BY HAT is targeted for a limited audience. This obvious labor of love is aimed at the most devout fans of the author or exterior cynics seeking enlightenment of the existence of a greater presence. Those casual fans of the author's mysteries will want to pass to avoid feeling like a pigeon. The writer states her external searches proved futile in terms of concrete confirmation, but when she began to look at the inner essence of Nevada Barr she began to feel a sense of being part of a greater universe than just herself. One hat at a time, Ms. Barr provides a deep, humorous look at how she found her spiritual path that she ironically (in light of her honest admittance that her research into other writings failed to answer her questions) hopes encourages others to do likewise.
Most recent customer reviews
For Nevada Barr, her faith journey started in a church that was close to home, had light shining through a stained glass window and was open at the moment she responded to an inner... Read morePublished on April 5 2004 by R. BULL
This is an honest account of Navada Barr's spiritual journey told in short essays. There is a mixture of seriousness and lightheartedness here. Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2004
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