66 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Book That Matters, 28 Dec 2004
Yalom writes about things that matter. Anyone who practices therapy (or not), individual or group, - on either side of the couch - must read Yalom. The Schopenhauer Cure takes us on a journey from disconnection to connection, a matter of life and death. Death turns our awareness to life: we connect "through the commonality of our suffering..." (p. 323).
Not only is Yalom a great novelist, but also a brilliant therapist. His earlier work touches on the essence of human nature. It is hard to believe that a single writer can get down to the core of so many vital issues. He began his work with a textbook - The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy (1970), and writing novels in 1991 - coming full circle from a text on the subject of group therapy to a novel about it. If I would have only discovered Yalom 35 years ago I would be much further along. But then the readiness is all - and I am now ready.
After his diagnosis of malignant cancer and having only a year of life left, psychotherapist Julius Hertzfeld looks up Phillip - a patient from the past who he felt had failed in treatment years earlier. Julius invites him into his group on a deal - the group in exchange for supervision. In some odd way I love Phillip - a Schopenhauer scholar whose life parallels the philosopher's and whose philosophy is woven throughout the novel - men who could not bond with others. In The Schopenhauer Cure I watch Phillip unfold.
Philosophy, endings/beginnings, connections/disconnections, life/death, and suffering are woven throughout. The Schopenhauer Cure is a message in living life to the fullest - even in the face of imminent death. Although Julius has cancer, he continues to live to do what he loves most - group therapy. Death takes care of itself - our job is to live; but "to learn to live well, one must first learn to die well." (p. 69).
Yalom's novel depicts group therapy at its finest. If there is one message that Yalom cries over the roof tops, it is this: "It's not ideas, nor vision, nor tools that truly matter in therapy.... - it's always the relationship." (p. 62). Yalom gets into the hearts of the participants as well as the therapist - and the thoughts that pass through their minds. Julius learns along with the group members - they are traveling the path together, and I with them. It is a journey through the emotional-relational world of the characters that Yalom so realistically creates - it is a real world. I wait for The Schopenhauer Cure to appear as a screenplay.
But all things must come to an end - even this novel. That's the nature of life. I don't want the group to end, for Julius Hertzfeld to end, for the novel to end. I read more slowly to keep them with me longer - Julius, Phillip, Tony, Pam and the others. They talk about things that matter - relationships, emotions, and together we move through broken pasts, ultimately arriving at connection.
Yalom is up there with Nietzsche. He is bold enough to face the inevitable - death. "Of all that is written, I love only what a person hath written with his blood", (Nietzsche in Thus Spake Zarathustra; p. 39). And Yalom writes with his blood.