For My Next Act:
Women Scripting Life After Fifty

by Karen Baar

Rodale, 2004. ISBN 1579546870.
Reviewed by Lee Ambrose
Posted on 11/04/2004

Nonfiction: Body Language; Nonfiction: Elders

Meet Karen Baar, mother, women's health advocate, writer and woman of the "fifty-something" group. Baar has been involved in women's health issues since the 1970s. She holds a masters degree in public health from Yale University School of Medicine. She is the author of countless articles in such publications as The New York Times, Health, Cooking Light, Parenting, Self, Good Housekeeping, and Natural Health. She has co-authored three books: Women and Pain, The Circadian Prescription, and American Indian Healing Arts.

In For My Next Act, Baar "compares and contrasts life before and after 50, offering readers a clear-eyed perspective on the way life changes for women as their roles and relationships evolve." (Excerpt from the dust jacket)

Shortly after the author turned fifty, her husband of many years left her. Life as she knew it was in complete disarray. Her children were grown, her career was successful; but her sense of self was challenged. Add to that mix, the fact that she was perimenopausal. She questioned everything about who she was and how she would continue with so many changes assaulting her at once. In the Introduction, Baar states, "I don't have all the answers yet. But, I've begun to reclaim my center, the solid core of me. More than ever before, I know who Karen is. And For My Next Act is the result of that journey."

The book begins with Baar's personal "fifty-something" story and builds on that by using interviews with women in the same age bracket conducted by medical, social and psychological experts. After much research and the study of the interview materials, Baar concludes that "most women emerge from their fifties feeling better about themselves, experiencing higher levels of happiness and satisfaction than women at all other stages of life."

Neatly sectioned into chapters on critical topics and subtopics for the fifty-something woman, the book also provides the reader an opportunity for self-assessment on each chapter's subject matter. These opportunities offer food for thought, and some also may be excellent journaling prompts.

Chapter 1, "What do I want to be for the rest of my life?," is a logical starting point. The following chapters takes the reader on the rollercoaster ride of traversing the 50's and making sense of it individually, including such issues as the Empty Nest Syndrome, friendships, religion and spirituality. Baar's final chapter poses the challenge to readers that they need to stop reading and start acting.

From the author's afterword: "We fifty-something women are putting all aspects of our lives on the table. There are no established rites of passage to mark our journey. Instead, as we stand poised on the threshold to the next act of our lives, we learn from each other how to reclaim or reinvent our best and truest selves."

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