The Worn out Woman: When Your Life is Full and Your Spirit is Empty
Before I get into my comments about this book, I have a message for publishers everywhere: Please, please, figure out a seamless way to deal with co-authored, first-person books like this one. The "I (Steve)" or "My (Alice's)" construction is awkward and interrupts the flow of the book. Some publishers have solved this problem by using subheads, like "Steve's Turn" or setting off a specific author's comments with something like "From Alice." Whatever. This is a creative industry, and there has to be more than one creative solution to this problem.
Now, to THE WORN OUT WOMAN. The first time I saw the title of this book, two thoughts immediately came to mind: I have to read this book, and I wish I had written this book. What a great title! The downside was that I also immediately placed my own personal spin on the title and imagined a book that would meet my needs as a worn-out woman --- a meditative, reflective book addressing the deeper issues that cause some women to run themselves ragged, through work or worry or wondering what they can do next to fix the problems of the world.
That's not what this book provides, and so my first reading of it was a highly disappointing one. In fairness to the authors, I decided to go through it a second time, discarding any presuppositions about what the title promises. It still had the feel of a basic how-to book, but at least I knew to expect that.
The book's chapters are arranged topically, with many of the chapters addressing the reasons why some women live in a way that is counterproductive to their physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, things like worry and lack of forgiveness. Within the chapters are bulleted lists, self-test questions and relevant quotations or scriptures; each chapter ends with suggestions for "Something to Try."
As an example, the chapter titled "Shoulds and Oughts" defines four "time-clearing" principles in the main text. It also includes a list of six "A's" --- words beginning with the letter A --- that illustrate the areas of life in which people tend to compare themselves with others, such as appearance and accomplishments; a list of 100 positive attributes, like graceful and relaxed (you're supposed to circle those that apply to you); 10 questions to help you determine if you're a people-pleaser; and five principles for fighting perfectionism. The "Something to Try" page encourages you to pick one activity out of a list of four, such as analyzing the expectations that drive your life or planting an indoor garden. Anecdotes relating to the topic are interspersed throughout the text.
Stephens and Gray are both successful authors with a loyal fan base, and they each seem to have found a niche following. If you like their previous books, you'll probably find this one helpful, although there's not a lot of depth here or ideas for ways to counteract stress that you probably haven't already thought of yourself.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on February 5, 2004