Top critical review
11 people found this helpful
A book to perhaps go back to now and then
on 16 January 2014
My clinical supervisor recommended this book to me recently, following a bereavement. Although I was not completely sure what I would make of it, I trust her opinion and so decided to read it. Yalom is quick to ascertain that the main focus of the book is to explore his theory that people generally have a tendency to repress their "whole creaturely self and especially its finite nature." He was also quick to reassure us as the reader that confronting death does not have to end in despair. Instead, he says that it can be a way of awakening our experience to a fuller life. So, "though the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death saves us." In order to highlight this thesis, Yalom goes on to examine philosophical thought, literature and examples from his own practice.
To a certain extent, I did get something out of STARING AT THE SUN. I think mainly, for me, it was the idea of rippling: that people can have an influence on others (often unknown to the person who has had the positive effect) that they meet throughout their lives, and these ripples of influence continue long after that person has been deceased. That, for me, gave me comfort. Too often people think about what material things they will inherit from others once they have gone - this idea suggests that people have so much more to give and leave to those around them.
However, I did not feel that I could read the book in its entirety like I would others. Of course, due to the very nature of the book, it is going to be hard going at times. Although my grief had not brought up issues in regards to my own mortality, reading STARING AT THE SUN forced me to confront it.
I would also have preferred to have had less of the examples from Yalom's own practice. Although some of these were enlightening, I preferred the passages of the book where Yalom was 'speaking' to me directly. Perhaps only one or two examples would have sufficed in each section, rather than the small handful you sometimes got. That is only a small gripe, however.
Please don't take me wrong - I do think that STARING AT THE SUN has helped me in some way. I just think that this will be a book I return to, perhaps a little later in life.