Book Review: Braving the Wilderness-The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown PhD, LMSW

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I first head of Dr. Brené Brown when she was mentioned during a sermon at my church, First Union Society of Milwaukee several years ago. Intrigued, I decided to read Brown’s books and check out her now classic TED talk on “The Power of Vulnerability.” I’m now a huge fan of Brown’s work so I was only too happy to read and review Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. *

Braving the Wilderness is about being courageous enough to strip us off all pretenses and face an often critical world being our true, authentic selves. It’s also a reminder that by doing this we might find ourselves standing alone is ways that may make us uncomfortable. To do this Brown gives us four practices to guide us, which include.

  1. People are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.
  2. Speak Truth to BS. Be Civil.
  3. Hold Hands. With Strangers.
  4. Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

After several chapters summing of the context of Braving the Wilderness, which includes stories about Brown’s personal stories of a rough childhood and several notable luminaries, we get into the crux of the book.

The practices Brown advises are clear as can be. We often hate what we don’t know, especially people we deem as “others” so it’s important to move in and get to know then as living human beings. However, sometimes we must speak out when other tell lies, just don’t be a jerk about it. Don’t be afraid to extend a hand to someone you don’t know, and finally have a back bone, a compassionate soul and a heart that is brave enough to survive the rough and wild world out there.

In print, this seems easy, but in actual practice they might be quite difficult. So thank goodness for Brown’s wisdom in imparting her advice throughout Braving the Wilderness using her gifts as a storyteller and academic. She touches on the issues that divide us, but also reflects on issues that unite us.

While reading Braving the Wilderness I often found myself nodding my head, saying to myself, “Yes, I get this. This is my truth!” And at times I was faced with passages that challenged me in ways where I had to put down the book a take several moments to reflect on Brown’s words. I also read passages I wanted to revisit once I finished reading Braving the Wilderness long after I finished it, which is obvious from all the post-it notes I placed in my copy.

I must admit I was a bit hesitant in writing my review of Braving the Wilderness. I was afraid I’d come across an over-enthusiastic fan girl of Brown’s or this review might be more of a marketing piece than a legitimate review. I also didn’t want to give away too much of the book’s content either. It is a book that should be read and savored as personal experience.

Most of all Braving the Wilderness is a very important book in our modern age of “MAGA cap wearing deplorables” and “pussy hat wearing snowflakes.” We are so polarized. Is there a way we can become less “Us vs. Them” and more “We the People?” A very timely book, Braving the Wilderness is just one soothing and wise elixir that might make that possible.

*Braving the Wilderness is currently being sold at the Book Tower in the Common Room at First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee.

Book Marks

1.Even books have their own awards’ season.

2. Book Riot’s holiday gift guide for 2018.

3. Smithsonian Magazine’s list of the 10 best books about food in 2018.

4. The Guardian UK’s list of the best books regarding divided governments.

5. 12 books for pop culture lovers.

6. Best YA and children’s books of 2018 according to Time magazine.

7. Minnesota library closes out National Novel Writing Month with a publishing program guide.

8. Three books tells it like it is at the Mexican border.

9. Want to read something not trendy? Here is a list of alternatives to the best-seller lists.

10. Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, is a sequel to the Handmaid’s Tale.

 

Book Review: Half the Child by William J. McGee

Portrayals of single fathers seem to fall into only a few tired and clichéd tropes-the fun-loving, weekend dad, the deadbeat dad behind on his child support payments, the “my ex is a bitch so all women are bitches” bitter single dad and the completely absent dad who disappears from his children’s lives.

Fortunately, Mike Mullen from William J. McGee’s novel Half the Child is none of those things when it comes to being a single dad.

On the surface Mike seems like a regular guy. He’s a loving and devoted father to his little boy Ben. He works as an air traffic controller at LaGuardia while working on his master’s degree in psychology. He comes from a loving, yet at times, testing Irish Catholic family.

But Mike is also going through a contentious divorce that will turn his world upside down, especially when it comes to both his personal and professional life.

Divided into four distinct chapters called books, Half the Child follows four consecutive summers in the lives of Mike and Ben.

In the beginning, Mike is separated from Ben’s mother and they are on the verge of getting a divorce. It isn’t long before the divorce turns sour and Mike’s ex abducts Ben and leaves the country.

This sets off Mike into a nightmarish tailspin as he fights for his parental rights, which affects his personal life, including a budding romance. It affects him physically, emotionally, and mentally. Professionally, Mike is a mess. Mike begins to suffer a deep depression and often contemplates suicide. How will he cope with every obstacle that comes his way? What will happen to his relationship with Ben? Is it beyond repair? How will survive Mike survive this nightmare? All I know is I read this book with bated breath, turning page after page, hoping there would be some light at the end of the tunnel entrapping Mike.

Written by someone of lesser talent, Half the Child would come across as way too over the top to be believed. But McGee is a thoughtful and gifted writer whose “voice” rings true. Every character is rich in detail, no matter how major or minor. And the various scenarios in Half the Child are shown, not merely told.

At turns, Half the Child is heartbreaking and hopeful. It is filled with suspense, humor, anger, and intimacy, truly a grand achievement in story-telling. McGee is a writer to watch for, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.