Top positive review
March 20, 2019
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is the wrong title for Lori Gottlieb’s fine memoir about her life and work as a therapist. I suggest instead, Love Wins. On the bottom of the book jacket we find: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, which I would continue to include on the cover of the book. Special note: I discuss two of Lori's many patients, Julie and John. Some readers may wish to avoid reading about them in my review and wait instead until Lori introduces them in her book. If that is the case, skip to the paragraph that starts: "Now as I sit back..." Thanks.
Of course, the title of the book is less important than what's inside and this memoir that tells the story of Lori Gottleib and her patients holds our attention from beginning to end. One of Lori’s patients, Julie, is dying of cancer. Each week Julie comes for therapy to help her come to terms with her death. We follow Julie in therapy from her first diagnosis of cancer to her quiet death and few readers will not take a few moments to sit back and think about loved ones they have lost and then cry with Lori and Julie. When Lori talks with Julie about what matters most she says to Julie, “Love wins.” This is exactly what Julie’s dad had said to her when discussing how families overcome the many problems that come along and how they survive them. Her dad says to his daughters, “Because at the end of the day, love wins. Always remember that girls.”
Love wins is at the center of everything Lori does. No, she’s not perfect and her memoir does not try to hide her own inadequacy as she faces the trials and tribulations of her own life. But Lori’s heart is in the right place and she knows that “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.” With one of her difficult patients, John, the award winning screen writer who thinks that everyone is an idiot, Lori is patient and loving and love wins. Lori listens to John with her heart and sees in the depths of his being the love that is hidden there that only needs someone like Lori to recognize and then help John find his way home to the person he was meant to be. With John we laugh at his outrageous banter, which Lori captures perfectly, but then cry when the banter is replaced by the truth of John’s inability to cope with the death of his beloved young son Gabe in an auto accident.
Now as I sit back for a moment and think about it, that’s what Lori’s book is about – laughter and tears, for that is what our life is – ups and downs, sickness and health, laughter and tears, and Lori has captured it all remarkably well. She is so skilled as a writer that we feel like she is talking to us and we can make conversation with her. I have written many reviews of English writer Anthony Trollope’s novels and I have said that Trollope, like Lori, draws us in to his world as he tells us about the predicaments his characters find themselves emeshed in, that “sweet flypaper of life” that Lori is caught in, but with help from her own therapist, Wendell, she extricates herself only to be caught again. But Lori has learned not to take herself too seriously. In her book we see her come to terms with her humanity. She knows that like her patients she often takes one step forward and two steps back. She says “all of us are trying our best to get out of our own way.”
Lori’s memoir is meant to be read slowly and savored, sitting back from time to time as we examine our own lives and try to figure out how to get out of our own way. Lori tells us what we already know, that no easy answers exist for anyone. Long ago the Buddha gave us his First Noble Truth: Suffering – life is full of suffering. But the Buddha, Jesus, and all the great teachers know what Lori has shown so well in her memoir, that in the end, love wins. If we hold on to that great truth we will have the strength to face the challenges that are a part of all our lives.
I wish Lori were here at my desk so that I could thank her in person for her wonderful book, but this review will have to do instead.