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A Life in Light: Meditations on Impermanence

Review

A Life in Light: Meditations on Impermanence

Becoming a writer fulfilled a long-contemplated purpose for psychologist Mary Pipher. She has penned bestselling books directed at helping other women (REVIVING OPHELIA, WOMEN ROWING NORTH), while her latest work recounts the steps in life that led her to it, and beyond. The central theme of her personal recollections is her love of light, the natural environment in its panoramic beauty or as seen through the tender eyes of a newborn.

Pipher’s childhood was difficult. She had an emotionally distant mother who studied for a career in medicine and a father who had fought in two wars. The second, in Korea, took him away from the family for several years. Pipher and her two younger brothers almost had to raise themselves, but she found solace in great books (most of which were written by men) and the company of her grandmother, who called her “my Mary” and always baked her favorite cookies when she came to visit.

"Pipher’s perspective in older age is a breath of counsel for readers, offering both the solace of resignation and the challenge of paying closer attention, seeing even more of what the universe has to offer."

One early experience of the joy that light can provide was visiting a local, multicolored fountain as they were too poor to pay for other pleasures. She recalls “the way the light danced in the cascades of water” with a rainbow of hues that “carried me away from my everyday life into something vast and universal.” This appreciation has been a comfort and a mainstay throughout a journey that has included becoming a single mother by choice, marrying a man with whom she has spent these last many decades, enduring and mourning the deaths of her parents and others. Through it all, she has kept a circle of close friends and maintained an outreach for extended family.

Pipher’s stories are clear and tangible. She developed a gift for telling tales as a child --- sometimes pure fantasies with her pals as the central characters, other times persuading her friends to act out scenes from great literature. Each chapter in this engaging saga offers memories, metaphors and subtle suggestions. Her experiences of the delights of the bright patches she encounters include her first visit to the San Francisco Bay area with its “green hills with their rows of pastel houses”; the sunlight that suddenly burst through the window as she held her child for the first time; the equatorial sky of Costa Rica; and lying on the ground with her husband, enchanted by the Milky Way.

Pipher’s perspective in older age is a breath of counsel for readers, offering both the solace of resignation and the challenge of paying closer attention, seeing even more of what the universe has to offer.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on July 1, 2022

A Life in Light: Meditations on Impermanence
by Mary Pipher

  • Publication Date: June 28, 2022
  • Genres: Essays, Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1635577586
  • ISBN-13: 9781635577587