Alice Hoffman’s first work of nonfiction, Survival Lessons, reads as a mini instructional manual full of hope and inspiration. Hoffman briefly discusses her bout with breast cancer and leads into stories of other survivors of all varieties throughout the book. The book is probably considered to be in the self help genre, but the book is not preachy, weepy or read like a text book. In spite of the fact that the main message, survival, is rather deep, the book is light, motivating and breezy.
Hoffman gets to the point on how all survivors and all people need to just stop and take a moment to enjoy life as much as possible. She explains that it is okay to be down, but that it should not consume and she makes it clear that the little things in life are what is truly important. The people and relationships we cultivate in life are also important to our being and Hoffman explains how these relationships can help you pull through some of the very hard times. While I do think that the book and the messages within are meant to speak to cancer survivors and patients, it also speaks to those with no heath issues. Hoffman tries, successfully to remind the reader just how beautiful life is, even if it throws you something bad here and there. Each chapter is broken down into these instructions. A few chapters are named as follows: “Choose to Forgive”, “Choose to Tell Your Own Story”, “Choose to Make Things Beautiful”, just to name a few. You do not need to be a cancer survivor in order to take something or many things, away from Survival Lessons. We are all survivors in our own ways.
Hoffman writes this book with her typical clear grace that readers of her fiction will immediately recognize and be familiar with. For those who are unfamiliar with her works, it will feel as if you are getting a quick life lesson from your mom or a favorite aunt. Hoffman does a nice job of balancing her personal stories with the messages she is trying to convey. The book is not a memoir, but rather a sharing of information and lessons learned. Hoffman describes a lot of events that are not pretty, easy or enjoyable, yet her zest for her life and her passion for all things like love, family, animals and friends, lend support to her story. If you are struggling in any way, mentally, physically or even creatively, Survival Lessons most likely has a message that seems tailor-made for you to absorb.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.