(Reviewed by J.D. Jung)
“…forgiveness led to compassion, which in turn led to empathy. Very often empathy, as hard as it may be to extend it to one who has wronged you, is the very best shield of self-protection and emotional preservation. Holding on to your own anger can do far more emotional long-term harm than anyone else’s words or actions can ever do to you.”
Yes, I know that intellectually, but emotionally that phrase is hard for me to swallow. However that is what Julie Kessler came to terms with in regards to her father. Upon turning fifty, Julie Kessler recounted that and other lessons she learned throughout life in her memoir consisting of fifty well-written essays, Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight.
Each chapter or essay has its own title or lesson learned with a few pages explaining how she came to that realization. Kessler, an attorney, wife and mother was born and raised in Hawaii and has traveled extensively. Her mother, who brought her up alone, died when she was twenty-one. She will never fully recover from that, and she attributes so much of her awareness to her.
Kessler speaks rather objectively to the reader; that is, she doesn’t convey heart-wrenching details. Nor does she expect anyone to feel sorry for her. I found this refreshing. She simply explains her perspective based on her life experiences.
She talks about cultural assimilation in a story about a Chinese family in Israel. She addresses so many topics, such as coping with challenges and challenging people, prejudice, perspective and health.
I personally found the chapter about her meeting the son of a con-artist that swindled her mother out of sums of money the most fascinating.
Chapter 23 brought back painful memories for me, personally. In that chapter, Julie explains how she came to terms with cutting off a long sought-after relationship with her half-brother.
That is not to say that I agree with every conclusion that she has come up with. My life experiences are different than hers. However I think that Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight will give readers the courage to evaluate what they have learned from life.
Insight and wisdom, or at least a certain amount of introspection, comes with the process of living. There are so many more mistakes to be made without repeating old ones. At least I hope that is the case for most of us.
(Editor’s note: Fifty-Fifty, The Clarity of Hindsight recently received first runner up winner in the “wildcard” category at the 2013 Paris Book Festival. Congratulations Ms. Kessler!)