cover image In My Father's Garden: A Daughter's Search for a Spiritual Life

In My Father's Garden: A Daughter's Search for a Spiritual Life

Kim Chernin. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $17.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-56512-100-3

For most of her life, Chernin (Crossing the Border, 1995), a psychoanalyst now in her mid-50s, has considered herself her ""mother's daughter--stormy, revolutionary."" But, she declares in this affecting and intimate memoir, as she grows older she finds that she is ""perhaps my father's gentle, dreamy child even more."" As she has grown away from her mother's once dominating influence (expressed, for example, in Chernin's In My Mother's House, 1983), she also has found herself rejecting her parents' Marxism in favor of belief in ""an unseen order."" Chernin tells three ""stories"" here to explain her evolution and views. As a daughter, she re-examines her father's capacity for worship and finds that she is now drawn to how he expressed his love for the world through unobtrusive acts of caring and through his tending of his garden. As a therapist, she takes on the responsibility of guiding a cancer-stricken middle-aged woman through the process of dying. As a seeker, she dares follow an impulse to travel to Germany to meet the spiritual sage Mother Meera (erstwhile guru to both Andrew Harvey and Mark Matousek). Speaking to those who believe that only ""politics of total commitment on a grand scale"" matter, Chernin proposes that personal efforts can transmit effects in ways unimaginable, through ""the mysterious consequence generated from small acts of engagement with the world."" This is, to Chernin, the basis of a new ""spiritual politics""--for which, in her honest, fluent book, she proves to be a passionate and gifted spokesperson. (July)