cover image This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide

This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide

Geneen Roth. Scribner, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8246-4

This pleasant book from Roth (Women Food and God) again addresses a female audience about common struggles with body image, self-worth, trauma, and the trials of growing old. In chapters that can be read as individual essays, Roth reconfigures difficult experiences and, with the benefit of distance, relates them in witty, upbeat reminiscences. She remembers being criticized for being “too much” while growing up—too sensitive, too demanding, too big: “they somehow forgot to mention that I was also sassy, silly, and keen-eyed.” In an attempt to release readers from feelings of unworthiness, Roth explains how her journey to peace of mind first began by untangling her unhealthy relationship to food. The opening section addresses how food, because it is one of the joys of life, can become a crutch for self-esteem: “consistently eating beyond enough is a way to not have to face that what we love ends.” Roth writes about how breaking her back caused her to consider the heavenliness of the human body, how witnessing a puppy’s joy encouraged her to calm her mind, and how (in a timely chapter) a conversation with a friend about Gloria Steinem made her consider the possibility of an international patriarchal “cabal.” Roth, who has become more resilient with age, will captivate readers with her energetic yet calming wisdom. (Mar.)