Jane Isay, the editor who discovered Mary Pipher's Reviving Ophelia
and commissioned Rachel Simmons' Odd Girl Out
, has written an insightful, compelling book about "the delicate lifelong bond between grown kids and their parents." Isay traveled across the country and interviewed nearly 75 people (including dozens of parents and grown children), and Walking on Eggshells
shares moving stories that will help parents and grown children build strong new adult relationships with one another. We asked Po Bronson, author of Why Do I Love These People?
, to read Isay's book and give us his take. Read his review below. --Daphne Durham
Guest Reviewer: Po Bronson Po Bronson is the author of the brilliant bestseller What Should I Do with My Life?, the powerful and poignant Why Do I Love These People?, a hilarious novel called The Bombadiers, and The Nudist on the Late Shift, a collection of "true stories" about Silicon Valley.
When we tell family stories, we so often focus on the beginning and the end. The beginning is the two decades of our childhood and adolescence, and it's been the favorite narrative arc ever since Freud. What happens in your childhood does not stay in your childhood--it haunts the rest of your life. In the last decade, we've suddenly heard more stories of the end--narratives constructed around a parent's death, and often the year spent caring for that parent on their deathbed.
Because these are the conventional narratives, they often distract our attention from the many decades in between. We barely even have a terminology for these years--and the terms we employ sound like oxymorons: "Adult Children," "Parents of Adults." There's an old saying: you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. In the beginning this is true--we're in the care of our parents, like it or not. And in the ending this is also true--they're in our care, like it or not. But in the long middle, this isn't so true. The middle is a period where both child and parent can keep their distance, if they prefer. And often do, harboring resentment. We too often accept that this is just the way it is. "She's never going to change" is a common, fatalist refrain.
In Walking on Eggshells
, Jane Isay shines a much-needed light on these years. With a graceful respect for the families she investigates, she tells their stories--how they lost their love, and how they regained it. Isay covers the many ways families develop resentment, and the many techniques they employed to make peace. She shows that small changes in routine can go a long way to restoring goodwill. But it's not a self-help book; it's more of a literary contemplation, and we learn more by inspiration than by emulation.
Though this book addresses the parents directly, I suspect it will be passed back and forth, between generations, in many a family. --Po Bronson
From Publishers Weekly
As baby boomer parents age, they're discovering the empty-nest syndrome is nothing compared to what happens when their kids graduate from college and start leading lives of their own. To a generation famous for being involved in every aspect of their children's lives, it can be upsetting to find that those children no longer need or welcome your advice. How does one parent children who no longer need parenting? Publishing veteran Isay, an editor and mother of two grown sons, interviews scores of parents and adult children of all ages to see how they are doing it. The stories are heartwarming, and Isay recounts them with intelligence and compassion. What does she find? Nothing Ann Landers hasn't already told us. Mainly: don't give advice; make friends with your children's significant others; and remember that love heals. The most compelling story is Isay's own. One wishes it were the centerpiece of the book rather than tacked on as an epilogue. Her experience is an example of her most interesting discovery: children are quick to forgive and often the ones who take the initiative in forging a new brand of closeness between themselves and their parents—a closeness that is best described as adult. (Mar. 27)
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