Celebration! A Woman's Story of Courage, Endurance, and Transcendence
by Peggy S. Grose

Peggy S. Grose, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9744213-2-2.
Reviewed by Kathy Waller
Posted on 06/23/2009

Nonfiction: Memoir

Occasionally I come across a book that leaves me wishing I could sit down with the author over a cup of coffee and say, "Tell me more." Peggy S. Grose's Celebration! A Woman's Story of Courage, Endurance, and Transcendence is that kind of book.

The first half of Grose's life (it's difficult not to call her "Peggy") was filled with activity. She was born in 1933 and reared on a farm in Georgia. "Groomed" to marry a minister, she received a degree in religion, married, and moved to New England. There she worked, helped her husband complete a master's degree and pastor two churches, and gave birth to three sons. She then spent several years as a missionary in Southeast Asia, where a fourth son was born. In 1965, believing it was time for the Civil Rights Movement "to get out of the streets and into the classroom," she and her family moved to Austin, Texas, where she worked toward a master's degree in communications from the University of Texas while her husband taught at the predominantly African-American Huston-Tillotson College.

Unfortunately, Grose's active life was not a full one. She writes that she knew "intuitively from an early age, that the importance of my existence was to make my mother look good." After years of living with constant criticism, she "married somebody very much like" her mother. Her husband's verbal and emotional abuse and neglect began on their honeymoon. Believing it was her job to "make him adequate," she spent nearly twenty-five years attempting to "fix it by trying harder."

The turning point came at a workshop when a group facilitator instructed participants to close their eyes and imagine as a rose bush.

"I saw what had once been a rose bush, standing in dry, cracked earth, without one green leaf or a single red petal. . . . a shattering image. I had known for a long time that I was hurting but hadn't realized that I was dying."

After preparing herself "physically, mentally, and emotionally," she obtained a divorce and began the second half of her life. Over the past thirty years, she has worked as a probation officer, a licensed professional counselor, and a teacher of communication and public speaking; has traveled and done extensive volunteer work; and has found happiness in a second marriage.

Grose says she wrote this book for women who lack self-esteem, live someone else's goals, "wear a coat of shame and guilt for not being perfect and for not being able to do it all." She ends with a questionnaire that she hopes will "assist women . . . in examining the nature and quality of their lives and to encourage growth and greater confidence in their own worth."

Celebration! appears to have been self-published. Production values are generally good. The formatting of a lengthy quotation from a newspaper article about Grose creates some confusion and would have benefited from closer editing. The use of a moral to end each chapter might be considered trite, but each is appropriate to the content that precedes it and to the book as a whole.

About her busy life post-divorce, Grose writes, "I am interested in so many things and am afraid I'll miss something." Ironically, if there's anything disappointing about this book, it's that in covering her seventy-plus years in under two hundred pages, the author leaves out so much. It's clear that she has many more stories to tell. I would especially enjoy reading more about her years in Southeast Asia.

Celebration! is the story of a woman with an open mind and a generous, adventurous spirit. I only wish she would tell me more.

Peggy Grose is a licensed therapist, teacher and group facilitator, speaker, and workshop presenter. A resident of Austin, Texas, she is the author of Love and Lemon Pie: Recipes for the Body and the Soul. More information about Grose can be found on her website or on her blog.

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