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

by Kim Chernin
     
 

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Kim Chernin's mother was a leftist firebrand, an American Marxist at mid-century, when it was dangerous to be one. Her father, a quiet man, was no less radical. Why then, decades later, does their daughter—a liberal California psychoanalyst and writer—find herself drawn toward a spirituality that would have shocked her parents? Through three personal

Overview

Kim Chernin's mother was a leftist firebrand, an American Marxist at mid-century, when it was dangerous to be one. Her father, a quiet man, was no less radical. Why then, decades later, does their daughter—a liberal California psychoanalyst and writer—find herself drawn toward a spirituality that would have shocked her parents? Through three personal stories, Chernin tackles the questions that pull at all of us: how to make sense in a world whose order isn't always apparent, and how to find balance between the mind and the spirit. "Kim Chernin writes with immediacy and intimacy."—City Life, London.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
For most of her life, Chernin (Crossing the Border, 1995), a psychoanalyst now in her mid-50s, has considered herself her "mother's daughterstormy, 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)
Library Journal
In this beautifully crafted parable of spiritual discovery, Chernin (In My Mother's House, HarperCollins, 1996) reflects on the ways in which the simplicity and serenity of her father's daily activity in his garden became the model and foundation for Chernin's own spiritual journey. In haunting prose, Chernin guides us through her pilgrimage from atheistic teenager to spiritually awakened woman. Through her retelling of an experience of comforting a dying friend and of an encounter with a Hindu holy woman, the author evokes the teachings of compassion and wisdom that her father's work in his garden taught her. With this little meditation, Chernin shares with us the manner in which exalted moments of spiritual self-awareness are grounded in the ordinary. Highly recommended.Henry Carrigan, Westerville P.L., Ohio
Kirkus Reviews
This exploration of spirituality via a look back at dad and the experience of easing a friend into death is right in sync with new directions in the self-help field.

A prolific writer, Chernin (A Different Kind of Listening, 1994, etc.) is also a psychoanalyst who early in her career grabbed onto issues like body image, eroticism, bisexuality, and women's relationships with their mothers; her explorations of them brought her a dedicated audience. This small book uses her memories of her quiet and thoughtful father (as opposed to her noisy and assertive mother, whom she wrote about in In My Mother's House) as a springboard to reflections on the Meaning of Life. Her belief that "we live in a universe built fundamentally upon spiritual values" is not, she says, "a fashionable idea," although, in fact, its current trendiness quotient is up there with those of Donna Karan and Web sites. Divided into three parts, Chernin's journey begins with a reminiscence of Saturday walks with her father, of his love for his garden, and of his "small acts of kindness and concern," which may have had as much impact on her dreams of a socialist future as her mother's larger and more public efforts at political change. Next is a story of a woman dying of cancer. Chernin's efforts to help—including a promise of assisted suicide, if necessary, and episodes of energy transfer from therapist to patient—led to a new agenda for the author, a desire to work with the dying. Third is the lure of a "divine mother," a Hindu woman distributing her blessings in a small town in Germany. After a visit to Mother Meera, Chernin returns to her California home inspired to reconcile her legacies of political activism and spirituality.

Perhaps enough spiritual sustenance for her but not enough for the reader. Tillers of spiritual soil need to dig much deeper than the author does here.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565121003
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
01/07/1996
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
196
Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 7.30(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Kim Chernin is the author of nine books, including The Obsession, The Hungry Self, Reinventing Eve, A Different Kind of Listening, and In My Mother's House. She lives in Berkeley, where she works as a pyschoanalytic consultant.

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