Phosphorescence: A Memoir of Finding Joy When Your World Goes Dark

Julia Baird. Random House, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-23691-8
Australian journalist Baird (Victoria: The Queen) blends self-help, memoir, and popular science in this curious inquiry into modern humanity’s struggle to find and maintain happiness. “Phosphorescence” in this context is more than the literal scientific phenomenon through which plants and animals (and as one study she cites claimed, even humans) become luminous; it’s also the search for an inner joy amid darkness. For Baird, that glow can often be found in religious faith (despite her long personal history of resisting patriarchal church orthodoxy) or simply in early morning swims among sea life (“As your arms circle, swing, and pull along the edge of a vast ocean, your mind wanders, and you open yourself to awe”). Unfortunately, she flounders when wandering into bland self-improvement advice, with an overabundance of secondary sources, inspirational quotes, a platitude-laden “my darling daughter” missive (“Keep in mind that the most important quality in a person is goodness”), and cringe-inducing rhapsodies about finding one’s own “tribe” (alongside, it should be noted, valuable lessons from Aboriginal cultures). There are sparks and flares of brilliance to be found, but overall the assembly never burns brighter than standard inspirational genre fare. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM Partners. (July)
Reviewed on : 03/05/2021
Release date: 05/25/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4607-1089-0
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