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Survival Lessons Hardcover – October 1, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 136 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Her own longing for a guidebook when she was confronted by loss and cancer inspired Hoffman, the best-selling author of 21 imaginative and compassionate novels, to write her first nonfiction title. While under stress, she “needed to know how people survived trauma” and to be reminded of “the beauty of life.” Writing with sparkling directness, warmth, humor, and long-steeped wisdom, Hoffman has created a companionable and genuinely useful book for times of crisis. Small, intimate, and lovely, Survival Lessons is illustrated by Hoffman’s photographs and sweetened with recipes to support one of her key guidelines, savor life. Opening her harrowing experiences to readers, Hoffman also remembers her mentors, from Anne Frank to her grandmother (“the person I could always depend on, as funny as she was tough”) to the writing teacher who helped her become a published writer. Hoffman offers hilarious advice for coping with difficult people, recommends watching old movies and reading “the greats,” and sings out, “Don’t hold back!” “Live right now!” Hoffman’s storytelling artistry enlivens each intimate, thoughtfully distilled, charming, and nurturing lesson in living. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Best-selling Hoffman’s candid, upbeat, and graceful guide to coping with trauma will attract loyal fans and all readers looking for sustaining advice. --Donna Seaman

Review

“In this gem of a book, Alice Hoffman acknowledges the sorrows of life, while reminding us of its joys. Survival Lessons is filled with love, insight, and lots of practical advice--including a crazy-good brownie recipe. I'll be sharing this book widely, but keeping one copy permanently on my nightstand for all the times I'll need its wisdom and warmth.” ―Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

“Full of smart intentions and kind reminders . . . Uplifting advice we’ll gladly take.” Better Homes & Gardens

“Very warm, humble, sometimes funny, infused with a spirit of optimism.” The Jewish Week

“The book is not about her breast cancer per se but about making choices (each chapter is titled “Choose…”) that will improve readers’ lives and relationships and remind them 'of the beauty of life.' More than cancer sufferers will be glad they picked up this tiny gem.” ―Library Journal

“It may be short, but it's powerful. An absolutely beautiful book.” ―Sue Monk Kidd

“Heartening.” Kirkus Reviews

“Writing with sparkling directness, warmth, humor, and long-steeped wisdom, Hoffman has created a companionable and genuinely useful book for times of crisis. Small, intimate, and lovely . . . Hoffman’s storytelling artistry enlivens each intimate, thoughtfully distilled, charming, and nurturing lesson in living.” Booklist

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (October 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616203145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616203146
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (136 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
You may think you know who Alice Hoffman is. You've been reading her novels for years, from Practical Magic to The Dovekeepers. She writes women's literary fiction, right? After 23 such novels, it seems like a fair assumption. But did you know she's a popular young adult author as well? Or that she penned a nonfiction book, a memoir? Until recently, I didn't either, and I'm glad to have discovered some new Alice Hoffman titles to add to my reading list.

Hoffman's latest book is called Survival Lessons, and it's a heartfelt entry into the world of nonfiction, a personal journey made universal. Fifteen years ago, Hoffman received a breast cancer diagnosis that sent her reeling. Treatment and recovery proved completely foreign landscapes, with few familiar landmarks to direct her way. Hoffman wanted a guidebook, but found none. Now, all these years later, she has written the very book she wished for.

"There is a very thin line that separates readers and writers," writes Hoffman in her introduction. "You make a leap over that line when there's a book you want to read and you can't find it and you have to write it yourself."

The result is not a typical memoir, and in fact contains surprisingly few glimpses into Hoffman's actual ordeal. Instead, it's more of an optimistic instruction manual explaining how to take care of yourself when you're dealing with a serious illness, or any traumatic experience.

Hoffman's advice seems simple on the surface. Choose your heroes, she says. Eat chocolate. Only answer the phone when you want to. Read more closely, though, and you'll see the unique interpersonal observations you've come to expect from Hoffman.
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Format: Hardcover
It’s true. Good things really do come in small packages. Best selling novelist Alice Hoffman packs a lot of practical wisdom about life and surviving breast cancer in this eighty-three page guidebook.

In a voice that stems from the heart of a woman who has survived breast cancer, we glean page after page of trustworthy, day-to-day tips for living a full life. Filled with simple, practical lessons, she draws us into her human experience and helps us connect to our own.

I found myself immersed in her story and connecting on many levels—as a woman, a cancer survivor, a wife, a mother, a friend, a human being. Interspersed throughout the book are photos and poems that highlight her messages of reclaiming your life and enjoying its simple pleasures. She even pays forward gifts her family and friends have given her—a recipe for brownies, a pattern for a knit cap.

Each section has simple, yet captivating title. Here’s an excerpt under Choose to Tell Your Own Story (page 66):

“When people ask you about your terrible year, the first thing that will come to mind is the grin on your son’s face on the rollercoaster and how fast your daughter ran on the beach. She was almost flying. She was the most beautiful thing on earth”

Underlying each message is the idea that life is precious and we need to stop and appreciate its beauty every day. One does not need to have cancer or a life threatening illness to appreciate these words.

The gentle reminders Alice offers in this little book are a gift to all of us.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Just received this little book today and from the moment I opened it at the very first sentence, I was hooked. Alice Hoffman is a best selling novelist but she is also a cancer survivor and this little gem is her story. She writes exactly what's in my heart...it's like we're joined at the waist, even in her admiration of Anne Frank. If you've walked "through the fire' and survived, this little book is for you.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was short, but mighty. It was beautifully written, as all Alice Hoffman's books are, and it touched me so deeply that it made me cry.

Alice Hoffman's writing is like reading poetry. She uses metaphor and simile just enough to give more weight and beauty to her words. I have enjoyed numerous works of Hoffman's fiction, so when I had the opportunity to read this book, I was delighted. This book was a little under 100 pages. Don't let the short length scare you away, the sparse pages are brimming with wisdom.

This has been a tough year for my family and, though none of us has had the dreaded diagnosis of breast cancer, we have had some very difficult times. I was able to relate to many things Hoffman said in this book and found such inspiration and joy in the pages, that I shared the experience with friends. This is a magical book that lit the flame of hope in my heart.
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Format: Hardcover
Alice Hoffman's "Survival Lessons" is a collection of brief essays in which the celebrated author discusses how she has successfully coped with various types of adversity, including a serious illness (she is a breast cancer survivor). She admits to such feel-good strategies as, on occasion, indulging hersef in unhealthful foods and weepy old movies. In addition, she tries to let go of long-held grudges and pointless guilt; regularly enjoys the beauty of a garden, a child's smile, or a piece of beloved music; chooses her friends carefully; and emulates people who "don't give up, even when the going gets rough, even when they want to." One of her heroes is her Russian-born grandmother, Lillie, who lost both a husband and child, traveled to the United States, lived in a Lower East Side tenement, worked tirelessly in a shop on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, and "volunteered at an old-age home into her eighties."

Hoffman's words of wisdom are far from unique. Many men and women, some famous and others less well-known, suggest ways to spend time more productively. One recent example is "The Gift of Adversity," by psychiatrist Norman E. Rosenthal, who offers lessons that he learned from his childhood in South Africa, his long career as a respected physician, and his role as a husband and father.

"Survival Lessons" is attractively bound and has lovely and evocative illustrations. Hoffman touches us with heartfelt guidance that should provide hope, consolation, and encouragement to men and women facing formidable challenges. Since "Survival Lessons" is concise (under one hundred pages) and not inexpensive, who would be its ideal audience?
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