For those of you who have followed Valerie Gilbert on her blog, Raving Violet, you won’t be a stranger to the various essays and stories, ramblings and musings, contained in this book. The collection varies from the humorous to the serious, the ranting to the spiritual, the mundane to the extraordinary. Set in New York over some months in 2011 and 2012, Valerie talks candidly about her life, her friends, her dead parents, and her love life (or sometimes the lack of one).
This book starts with a little forward that explains the author’s acknowledged growth as a writer through these essays and blogging. Initially, she was tempted to cut out some of the earlier works, but in the end, she left them in. As a listener, I could see in the space of this one book how her writing skill grew from start to finish.
There were parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed and other parts that didn’t do it for me. First, the good stuff. In general, Gilbert is putting a positive message out there centered around trusting oneself. She shares many stories about her own quest to find this center and learning to trust it. Most of the time, I found these stories amusing, and sometimes insightful. I enjoyed her tales of her pets, of good times with good friends, and of food.
Then there were chunks of the book that were kind of ho-hum for me. The author is very much into seances, mediums, channeling, readings, and various spiritual endeavors, teachings, and workshops. These things hold very little interest to me personally. When these tales were more about the story than the message, they held my interest and some I even found amusing and intriguing. However, there were periods where the narrative got hung up on giving a long, and sometimes rambling, spiritual message along with an explanation of the message. These sections were of little interest to me.
I found some of the spiritual endeavors interesting because human behavior is interesting. First, I was a bit surprised at how many people will pay money for some of these activities, teachings, and workshops. That statement is just me showing my ignorance. After all, people tithe churches, so why not pay for a weekend retreat to learn how to develop your psychic abilities? Then there is also the difference between channeling, being a medium, and simply having psychic abilities or being sensitive to another’s spirit. There are actual definitions and various, certified trainings one can take for each of these. The structure that went into classifying and defining these different abilities was a new thought to me.
Apparently there are many, many famous channelers and mediums and psychics out there. Gilbert walks you through some of her personal experiences with some of these famous folk, such as the hugging lady of India. There was also an Irish guru, who’s style and message weren’t to Gilbert’s liking. While Gilbert focused on the positive experiences throughout much of the book, I often found the not-so-positive more fascinating. The author doesn’t believe every self-proclaimed guru, medium, or psychic. Instead, she cautions that each person should listen to themselves first, and then carefully consider any spiritual messages received from without.
All in all, the book had a few gems that had me chuckling out loud or quirking an eyebrow.
Narration: NOTE: I listened to an older version of this book. Since then, the author/narrator has re-recorded this book and I gave it a spot listen (you can download the new version free from Audible if you have the old) and it is a quality audiobook with no background noises. Gilbert was enthusiastic about the book, imbuing it with emotion, humor, shock, awe, warmth, etc.