WC78 – Review of When You’re Falling, Dive

Rvu_matousek When You're Falling, Dive

By Mark Matousek
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN-13: 9781596913691 320pp

How people who have suffered trauma find an upside when they've gone to the brink—and back again. Do survivors of life's greatest trials possess a secret knowledge? Is there an art to survival—a map for crossing the wilderness—or daily life? Why do some people blossom through adversity while others stop growing? Drawing on twenty years' experience in this field, using stories, parable, and scientific data, acclaimed memoirist Mark Matousek gives the first-ever comprehensive look at this mysterious phenomenon of viriditas, the power of drawing passion, beauty, and wisdom from the unlikeliest places. Matousek interviews hundreds of well-known survivors—including Joan Didion, Elie Wiesel, and Isabel Allende—and experts such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jonathan Kozol, and Sogyal Rimpoche. He includes extraordinary testimonials, from a Tibetan nun imprisoned by the Chinese at age eleven and the women of Calama, Chile, digging for their “disappeared,” among countless others. Drawing insight and advice from these many heroic individuals, Matousek presents a chorus of wisdom for how to survive our own lives—the vicissitudes of being human—and prevail.

Publishers Weekly Memoirist and editor Matousek (Sex Death Enlightenment) attempts to dissect the relationship between life's harshest tests and the gift of self-discovery and survival in this absorbing compendium of anecdotes. The author, who has AIDS, interviews many survivors of trauma and loss, including writer Joan Didion, mystic Andrew Harvey, poet Stanley Kunitz and Tibetan nun Nawang Sangdrol, among others, to inquire how deepest crisis forces us to re-examine our lives and move forward. After stating that "Transformation is in our wiring," Matousek concludes that the key to our survival is not cheating death but living as passionately, creatively and courageously as possible. Using scientific data, psychological research and his own life experiences, he uncovers the essentials of enduring against all odds while answering his chief question: "What force flips a falling person back on his feet, reconstitutes him after disaster, helps him prevail in the face of great challenges?" Matousek shows an uncanny skill for merging spirituality, science and common sense into practical answers for surviving our own lives.

Mark Matousek is the author of two memoirs, The Boy He Left Behind and Sex Death Enlightenment. He is a contributing editor for O and Tricycle and writes the “Big Idea” column for AARP. He has served as senior editor of Interview magazine and has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times magazine, Details, Harper's Bazaar, Utne, Out, Yoga Journal, and others. He lives in New York City. 

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