Literary Hook: Book teaches 'how to write yourself a happy ending'

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117269495913642.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of‘, ‘Best-selling author Howard Kushner offers real-life observations in Overcoming Life’s Disappointments.‘);

We’ve had a great deal of cold weather and snow for the past month. This is perfect weather for going to the library, checking out delicious new hardbound books, and feasting on them. It’s a great way to get a boost from the property taxes you pay and to save money on hardbound books.

The Rockford Public Library has a fine selection of newest releases of fiction and nonfiction. These are exactly the same books you would pay $20 or for more at a bookstore. In addition, using the library is a “green” thing to do. It saves both money and trees.

My current pick is Overcoming Life’s Disappointments, by Harold Kushner.

Among Harold Kushner’s most famous books are When Bad Things Happen to Good People and When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough.

His books are nonfiction. His chapters are well-developed, personalized essays, blending both scholarly material and real-life observations and experiences. I usually read the table of contents in nonfiction books; if the chapters pique my interest, then it’s a library checkout. Simple as that!

Perhaps the chapter titles will intrigue you, too: “The Man who Dared to Dream,” “Who Are You Working For?,” “A Hard Road, Not a Smooth One,” “New Dreams for Old Ones,” “Keeping Promises,” “It’s Not All About You,” “The Mistakes Good People Make” and “How to Write Yourself a Happy Ending.”

I enjoy Kushner’s writing, partly because he does not write as though he is a guru with exactly so many rules and laws regarding how to live. He is complex and, at times, very candid about how his beliefs have changed. For example, his discussion of Freud and Jung reveals his own ability to re-frame ideas. He weaves ideas from other philosophers.

The central thread that moves throughout Overcoming Life’s Disappointments is the story of Moses, interpreted in the light of today’s problems.

We begin to see Moses as a great but imperfect man, with conflicts and contradictions.

And there is a disappointment (usually more than one) for everyone. They include garden variety disappointment to natural disasters.

The major categories listed for contentment in the last third of life include family, faith, friends, work and making a difference.

Kusher also illustrates the need to move beyond defining oneself solely by one’s traumatic experiences. He does not suggest these experiences should not be embraced—but must be integrated into a fuller and more compassionate view of the world. Any breathing person reading this book will find something with which to resonate. Kushner gives no simple answers, yet the book ends optimistically: “How to Write Yourself a Happy Ending.”

And who doesn’t want a happy ending?

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

From the Feb. 28-March 6, 2007, issue

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