Category Archives: self-discovery

From Seeker to Finder: Discovering Everyday Happiness

seeker to finderFrom Seeker to Finder: Discovering Everyday Happiness
by George Kimeldorf
Published by Newlog Publishing
118 pages
Genre: self-help 
Thanks to the publisher for the preview
4 / 5

 

When I was twenty-five, I packed up my belongings into a U-Haul and moved four states away. No job, no friends, no prospects. Just an apartment (which I got by lying about a job I didn’t have) and the belief that I wasn’t going to be happy staying where I was. It was time for a change.

George Kimeldorf, who wrote this book when he was seventy, is all about making proactive changes in order to stop seeking happiness and actually finding it. I’d like to think he would applaud my move.

This is a self-help book focused not so much on twelve steps – or any steps, for that matter – but rather on making you think about happiness. What does it look like to you? Feel like? When will you know you’ve found it?

Kimeldorf offers a series of anecdotes, some from his life, some from other people’s, with the purpose of guiding you toward creating your own reality. What makes one person happy may not work for you; what works for you may not for another. In Kimeldorf’s mind, we are each entitled to the pursuit of our own happiness.

And so he provides a framework for us to change the way we think about happiness. It essentially comes down to one tenet: you have to actively pursue it and actively embrace it. He tells about actually practicing being happy, espousing that before too long, you won’t be practicing. You actually will be happy.

Is there anything new or earth shattering here? No. You’ve probably read quite a bit of this before, in other books. What Kimeldorf does so well, though, is pare everything down to their basic points. In telling us stories about his own seeking, he avoids the pitfalls of “first you do this, then you do that.” He leaves it up to us to figure out what will work and what won’t.

And along the way, we will stop seeking and start finding, and we will be happy.

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East of Denver

East of Denver
Gregory Hill
Published by Dutton Adult
320 pages
Available on Amazon.com
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.
4.5 / 5

What a quirky, fun, heartbreaking book this is.

They say you can’t go home again, but when his cat dies, Stacey “Shakespeare” “Shakes” Williams decides to bring it back to his small rural hometown, somewhere – you guessed it – east of Denver. Things certainly have changed. Shakes’s dad is in the throes of dementia, occasionally forgetting that his wife died some years previously. Conversations are repeated. The home is a fetid bowl of squalor. And when his father’s caretaker is discovered dead in a locked bathroom (she’d been there for two weeks, but thanks to a disorder that prevents both Shakes and Emmett, his father, from being able to smell, no one noticed), Shakes realizes he needs to stick around for a little while.

He reconnects not only with Emmett, but with some friends from high school as well. First is Clarissa, an overweight anorexic with a fear of vomiting, who works in the local bank. Then there is Vaughn Atkins, a paraplegic who lives in his mother’s basement. Shakes’s interactions with these folks depend on what he needs from them. In the case of Clarissa, it might be feminine companionship, or, more likely, information about Mike Crutchfield, the bank’s owner. Vaughn provides comic relief, as well someone more lucid to talk to than Emmett.

As his visit progresses, Shakes discovers that his father is beyond broke. He’s lost most of the family’s land, and he sold his Cessna to Crutchfield for a mere $20. Shakes goes to confront the bank owner, only to be double-talked and left even more confused and hopeless. What can he do to help his father? In a “you steal from me and I’ll steal from you” sensibility, Shakes decides to rob the bank.

Of course his plans do not quite turn out the way he expects.

Gregory Hill does an excellent job of creating the lazy, constricted atmosphere of a small town on the edge of ruin. While it appears that Shakes is lucky because he did escape, he’s back home, just as ineffectual as everyone else. It seems like nothing good will happen for him or Emmett, and that sense of futility is never greater than when a doctor tells Shakes to feed Emmett fatty foods, because a heart attack beats the slow decline of dementia any day.

But not all is bleak. Hill writes some funny stuff in here, and those moments of wit and humor keep you optimistic, even as you know that Shakes and his father face certain doom and misery. Even the dead cat can’t rest in peace.

There isn’t a whole lot of plot in this book. The characters and dialogue drive the story more than the story itself. We never find out what Shakes has been doing since he left home, almost as if because those years away from Dorsey were as insignificant and meaningless as if he had never left. Shakes, it can be assumed, is damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

This book won Amazon.com’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2011, and when you read it, you will discover why. It is witty, sad and uplifting.

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