cover image Small Pleasures: Finding Grace in a Chaotic World

Small Pleasures: Finding Grace in a Chaotic World

Justine Willis Toms, , foreword by Carol Lee Flinders . Hampton Roads, $18.95 (177pp) ISBN 978-1-57174-586-6

In this collection of meditations, Toms (True Work: Doing What you Love and Loving What You Do ) offers harried overachievers a moment of respite, directing them through daily contemplation and humble rituals to reflect on wide-ranging topics—Buddhist proverbs, activism, service, connection with nature and the dynamism of “sparkle brain,” a flexible and adaptive mindset. The diminutive essays are vaguely organized under broad sections (“A Wider Landscape,” “Animals and Nature As Teacher,” “Be an Activist Without Driving Yourself Crazy,” “Circles and Friendships,” “Celebrations and Rituals”) that are appealing, but do not offer a cohesive enough thread to sew together the author's prescriptions. Two pieces do deserve special attention: “A Sense of Place,” a tender tribute to childhood, and “Circle of Your Own: Take The First Steps,” in which Toms credits Rev. Mary Manin Morrissey with the notion that everything is born twice—first in the imagination and then in the physical world—a compelling axiom as well as an elegant subtheme for the entire volume. Rather than a cover-to-cover read, Toms's slender book can best be accessed when needed and according to mood. (Oct.)