From reading the wisdom of sages throughout history and from her own personal experience, Alexandra Stoddard has developed a philosophy of living. Her daughters, now middle-aged, also contribute to the way she views the world, an outlook she discusses in her latest book, The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters.
When I was asked to review this book, subtitled The Timelessness of Simple Truths, I recalled Alexandra Stoddard’s inspiring books of many years ago, Living a Beautiful Life and Living Beautifully Together and accepted the offer eagerly. They influenced me greatly with their positive outlook and simple wisdom, although my sister dismissed them with an airy, “That’s all just new age stuff.”
There’s a lot of both in The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters. Wisdom, because Alexandra has sifted through so much great literature and because she lives consciously. New age and eastern ideas, because she and her daughters seem to gravitate towards them. And also a profound imbalance, because there is no real basis for many of the things Alexandra says, other than her own personal opinions and experience. There is no foundation, as Francis Schaeffer would say. No Truth.
And that is sad. Sad for Alexandra herself, although she does not seem to be aware of it, and also sad because it gives her beautifully-written book a hollowness. So many of the things she says are true, but because she does not acknowledge God, there is no reason for them to be be true other than wishful thinking and saying it is so.
Yet I learned much from this book. Chapter after chapter discusses life in Alexandra’s cozy big-sister style. Shared Wisdom is filled with simple statements that deserve careful thought:
- Order precedes beauty.
- Do what you are fitted to do.
- Avoid unnecessary distractions.
- Never stop learning.
- Guard what you say; do not listen to secrets or tell them.
- “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
- Just begin that project.
- Wasting time makes us feel dull, bored, and useless.
- The key to practical wisdom is patience.
Many of Alexandra’s concepts are familiar to a Bible reader. Reading them in a completely different context, in this finely crafted book with stunning blue pages facing each chapter, gives them a new impact. On the other hand, some of her ideas—I worship nature; the mind is divine—are far from Biblical.
When I read this book, I realized it was profoundly religious as all good philosophy is. While Alexandra’s religion is not mine and that is evident throughout her book, truth is true, and some truth shines through the pages of The Shared Wisdom of Mothers and Daughters. I am just sad that someone who thinks so deeply and lives so mindfully knows only bits of the truth, and does not love Truth Himself.
Would I recommend this book? I honestly cannot say. I’m glad I read it; I do not know if most of my readers would feel the same way. Hopefully my review will help you decide.
Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from Ashley Marudas of William Morrow and have expressed my own opinion.