cover image  Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture

Promise Land: My Journey Through America’s Self-Help Culture

Jessica Lamb-Shapiro. Simon & Schuster, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4391-0019-6

Through trial-and-error and historical accounts, Lamb-Shapiro fearlessly peers into the world of self-help culture, painting a sincere and hilarious picture of the personalities and ideas found in this field of self-promotion and discovery. Lamb-Shapiro, whose father is a child psychologist and self-help author, addresses her own difficulties in attempting to deal with the death of her mother—whom she never knew—and how working on this book led her towards closure. She tackles her own doubts and fears—of both the self-help industry and her own personal anxieties—admirably, detailing every hesitation and troubling encounter. The reader learns alongside the author of heartbreak within this form of therapy, with Lamb-Shapiro dissecting the reality of the field and its methods of attracting followers. Still, there are moments of wonder—does self-help really work and, if so, for whom? Regardless of the answer, Lamb-Shapiro’s journey through self-help culture fascinates and entertains, and as much as it also serves as a quasi-memoir, it excels. Teetering between believer and skeptic, she interweaves the history of self-help, introducing the movers and shakers of the business while providing intimate and moving stories that illuminate personal desires for support and guidance. Agent: Henry Dunow; Dunow, Carlson & Lerner Literary Agency. (Jan.)