The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families

The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families

by Mary Bray Pipher

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Our country is in a profound crisis, of decency, of civility, of character. Our best instincts are undermined at every turn. And our families, to which we turn in crisis, are feeling the strain with great intensity. Mary Pipher understands this. She is a good listener, perhaps the best listener in America. And what she understands she can express in a manner that goes… See more details below


Our country is in a profound crisis, of decency, of civility, of character. Our best instincts are undermined at every turn. And our families, to which we turn in crisis, are feeling the strain with great intensity. Mary Pipher understands this. She is a good listener, perhaps the best listener in America. And what she understands she can express in a manner that goes directly to the heart. Writing from her immersion in her community, and from her experience as a therapist, Pipher has found words to express our innermost feelings. Families today are experiencing a new set of realities. Working parents are harried, tired, and overextended. They are unable to protect their children from the enemy within, the inappropriate television they watch for hours, the computer games that keep them from playing outside, the virtual reality they tune in to when they should be learning about the real world. And so, Pipher says, we have houses without walls. Compounding this is the fact that our psychological theories don't work anymore, because they were developed decades ago, when families were tightly knit, relatively monolithic institutions. Pipher argues that Freud is of little help in our violent, sexually explicit MTV world. Diagnosing the problem is the first step to curing it, but in addition Pipher offers ideas for simple actions we can all take to help rebuild our families and strengthen our communities.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As she tells stories of families-her own and others'-therapist Pipher (Reviving Ophelia) focuses on small victories in what she calls "the current family-hurting culture." Distancing herself from therapies that pathologize families, Pipher claims to have experienced the power of hope that can be stimulated through carefully chosen family stories. In even the most dysfunctional families, she discerns threads of connectedness that have led to empowerment of her clients as they became more capable of handling their own lives. Pipher recommends an empathetic approach to families' efforts to survive in a difficult era, one that parallels the homesteading years of her grandparents earlier in this century. She offers plain and practical talk for beleaguered parents and the families they are trying to protect. 125,000 first printing; $100,000 promo; first serial to Good Housekeeping; author tour; BOMC main selection. (Apr.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Psychologist Pipher, the best-selling author of Reviving Ophelia (LJ 4/1/94), once again looks at American culture to explain our problems. This time, she explores the family and what today's antifamily culture is doing to it. She argues that by glamorizing sex, drugs, and violence and regarding children as consumers, our socity teaches children inappropriate values. She condemns institutions that glorify independence to adolescents who desperately need adult guidance and teach neighbor to fear neighbor. In short, she believes our culture is tearing apart the fabric of the American family and community. Pipher also criticizes therapists who blame bad parenting for children's problems rather than looking at the whole picture of culture. Yet she also offers hope by demonstrating ways of strengthening communities and bringing families closer together, using real-life success stories. This is a book that every library should own and every person should read.-Elizabeth Caulfield Felt, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman
Ray Olson
Whenever Pipher strays from her expertise as a family therapist, she comes a cropper because her memories of history and literature can be ludicrously faulty. Fortunately, after the first chapter, she sticks to what she knows to movingly advocate an up-to-the-minute cause--reviving American families. She sees current American culture as toxic to families because of its emphasis on consumerist autonomy at the expense of the cooperative interrelationship that families require. To exemplify the changes the culture has wrought, she compares at length an old-fashioned farming family, that of her maternal grandparents, and a typical family in therapy, which is multiply stressed by job demands, money worries, conflicting individual schedules, and electronic information overload. She shows how that modern-day family and others with whom she has worked successfully regained their strength. She takes her profession strongly to task for too often undermining families by encouraging narcissism, discouraging personal responsibility, and influencing social policies that divide rather than unite family members. Therapists should instead, she says, "politicize not pathologize families" and "help them see that their enemy is a culture that takes their time and money, overstimulates their children and leaves them with junk." A 125,000-copy first printing reflects the publisher's confidence that the time to heed such a rallying cry has arrived.
"A canny mix of optimism and practicality gives Pipher's fans a way to resist the worst of the culture around them and substitute the best of themselves."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Eye-opening . . . Pipher's simple solutions for survival in this family-unfriendly culture are peppered throughout the heart-wrenching and uplifting stories of several of her client families. . . . Highly readable, passionate."
USA Today
Kirkus Reviews
Psychologist Pipher (Reviving Ophelia, 1994) provides a sharp, often unsettling critique of many of the values that currently define our lives, coupled with solid advice for rebuilding families. Maintaining that "Much of our modern unhappiness involves a crisis of meaning and values." Pipher contends that technology and consumerism have become the gods of the '90s. Hours spent viewing cable television programs and commercials not only discourage meaningful communication among family members, it also leaves the viewers with the impression that happiness can be purchased. This, in turn, triggers such a need for money that work—even when meaningless or despised—becomes the individual's raison d'être. True happiness, insists Pipher, comes from meaningful, ethical work. What people really need is "protected time and space" and the need to reconnect with one another and the outside world. Simple rituals, such as saying grace at dinner and unplugging the telephone and television, can "hallow family time." Shifting the lens to her own profession, Pipher further contends that most therapists only harm their clients by focusing on their particular neuroses while ignoring the negative impact of contemporary culture. Therapists can be most helpful by encouraging the building of family connections, as well as links to the natural world and community resources. Pipher supplements her thesis with case studies. We hear of families that thrive when a parent cuts back on work hours and when a disaffected teen discovers the joys of helping the elderly.

Lively, straightforward, and somewhat subversive, The Shelter of Each Other offers hope for the American family in a time that challenges its viability.

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.08(w) x 9.28(h) x 1.16(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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