Necessary Journeys:
Letting Ourselves Learn from Life

by Nancy L. Snyderman, M.D.

Hyperion, 2000. ISBN 0786884320.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 04/29/2002

Nonfiction: Life Lessons

"I never expected life to be so messy."

With this simple yet powerful statement, Nancy Snyderman immediately draws women from all walks of life into a common circle—her circle, our circle. Necessary Journeys is Nancy's story. But it is, at least in part, the story of most every woman. Certainly Nancy Snyderman could write for Story Circle Network and fit right in with the rest of us! Her life is full of stories worth telling, and many of them can be credited with helping her to become the person she is today.

This confident, poised and respected ABC News medical correspondent has penned a book filled with hope and promise. But she has also tempered it with honesty and introspection. Her list of accomplishments is no small feat. Snyderman is a wife, a mother of three, a practicing surgeon, a journalist and a news correspondent. Her previously published works include Dr. Nancy Snyderman's Guide to Good Health for Women Over Forty, Girl in the Mirror: Mothers & Daughters in the Years of Adolescence, and Food & Mood: The Complete Guide to Eating Well and Feeling Your Best.

"Just what can this woman possibly have in common with me?" you ask. Probably more than you might ever imagine. Necessary Journeys takes the reader through Snyderman's life—the good and the bad of it—and offers the reader encouragement in her own life. With her sensitive approach, she is able to validate the roles and the conflicts in which women naturally find themselves: motherhood, career-oriented women often in a male dominated world, and females facing physical changes due to what the author refers to as "Moon Magic"—the hormonal phases of a woman's life.

Although I can relate very closely to many of the situations Snyderman has shared in her book, the most powerful chapter for me was "The Power of Love." Perhaps it was the fact that I was reading the book for my first time (in its original hardback version) at the same time I was dealing with a similar situation.This vivid accounting of a woman and her child in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) resounded with familiarity. The summer of 2000 found me spending much of my time in the local NICU next to my premature grandson. I know all too well the sensations that Snyderman reveals as she writes this chapter:

"Sometimes, the road takes us to places where our spirits are challenged in the deepest sense, and where the essence of the gift of life is revealed to us through the threat of its loss... I found myself at such a place nearly six years ago and, at that intersection, discovered the meaning of hope."

With agonizing accuracy, Snyderman has captured in this chapter the essence of hope, life, and love. She speaks candidly about how she was keenly aware of the severely ill children by the absence of a rocking chair next to their isolettes. She shares the feelings of heartache and jealousy over her inability to rock her own baby as other mothers nearby did so. The author is quick to point out that although her son is now happy and healthy, she "makes a point of remembering" just how ill he was and just how large the threat of losing him was in her life. She knows! She really and truly knows! Although many are quick to say they understand another person's situation, few really do unless they have been there themselves. Snyderman was there...she understands me...I understand her.

As I read the final chapter, "In the Circle of Women," It was as though she was writing about Story Circle Network: "I think stories play a particular role in the lives of women, who are storytellers by nature. We invent ourselves through the process of storytelling... Stories support, heal, and above all, inspire us."

Reading this book is inspiring. I have recommended it to every female friend and family member in my life. No doubt I will read it a few more times before all is said and done. Rarely do I plan to re-read a book. But in the case of Necessary Journeys, it is, well, necessary!

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