It is what someone once called the Earth Mother syndrome, this innate affliction that women have to want to care for everything, solve all problems, and be the beginning and end for their spouse while leaving nothing left for themselves. When it gets to be too much, some women resort to drastic measures to get their lives back in balance. Joan Anderson, acclaimed author of A Year by the Sea, went so far as to escape her circumstances in a way that only most people dream of: She ran away. In her new book, The Second Journey: The Road Back to Yourself, Anderson continues her voyage.
Anderson’s series of books chronicles her year-long escape, her journey back to her family and marriage, and the struggle she has keeping the balance she found. After the success of her first book, for which she appeared on Oprah and did a series book- and talk-related tours around the country, Anderson finds herself caught up again in a whirlwind of responsibility that has become too much. Top that with the continuing reliance her aging mother has on her, the fragile relationship she has with her in-laws, and the ever-evolving role she has as wife, mother, and friend. The Second Journey shows how she has learned to overcome it all.
As an installment novel that builds upon her earlier work, The Second Journey reads at first like an advertisement for A Year by the Sea. The first two chapters speak almost entirely about Anderson’s success. So much so that it seems more like an advertisement than an introduction. After reading the first chapter and then realizing that chapter two talks about more of the same, it leaves one feeling like dismissing the book. Yet that would mean missing out on what comes next. That is where the drama begins and where Anderson really shows her talent for writing and telling a compelling narrative about her life.
The Second Journey, in spite of its shortcomings, is a memoir worth reading. It is especially appropriate for summer reading, a good book to take on vacation, because so much of it talks about escape and simply getting away from it all. The book is also classified on its cover as “self-help.” Anderson has a rich history and a series of other publications that help women get their lives on track and help them claim victory over their life. On the final pages of The Second Journey, Anderson offers an afterward of sorts that describes different journeys. There are “second journeys,” “accidental journeys,” “counterfeit journeys,” and “spiritual journeys.” Each of them describes the type of path one’s is life on and gives guidance to think about, perhaps, the path on which one would really like to be.
Anderson also acknowledges the influence of another book, The Second Journey: Spiritual Awareness and the Mid-Life Crisis, that initially led her to take a closer look at her life. She had not yet reached veritable “crisis” that comes with mid-life, but she was intrigued nonetheless at what the future might hold. Anderson’s book includes a brief “itinerary” as well of what that second journey might look like and, borrowing from Women Who Run with the Wolves, outlines how a woman might conceptualize the many phases of her well-lived life.
Anderson’s book is a powerful feat, and though its focus is on the lives women, her book has been shared with men as well who need a bit of inspiration. In all, The Second Journey is book well worth the read.