cover image Imperfect Control: Our Lifelong Struggles with Power and Surrender

Imperfect Control: Our Lifelong Struggles with Power and Surrender

Judith Viorst. Simon & Schuster, $25 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-684-80139-1

A few years ago Viorst published Necessary Losses, an inquiry into facing loss and death. Her new book, which her publisher calls a sequel (she herself doesn't make that claim), continues in much the same spirit as she examines the somewhat fuzzily defined matter of control (e.g., self-control, control of the events in one's life, control of others). Beginning with questions of heredity and continuing on to the final acceptance of death, she touches on ""our lifelong struggles as children and parents, lovers and workers, victims and survivors."" Her style combines lecture-hall breeziness with a near-anthology of quotations from sources that range from T. Berry Brazelton to Freud in a Calvinist-like approach to free will: though we might not have it, we have to live as though we did and be responsible for our acts. She points out that a key element in any question of control is knowing when to surrender the illusion of it so we don't go crazy with self-blame. Her advice can be abstract to a fault or downright practical: sign health-care proxies and durable power-of-attorney agreements now. Partly because of its far-flung theme, the volume, while scattered with helpful insight, is a bit unwieldy. (Jan.)