The Sitting Swing: Finding Wisdom to Know the Difference
by Irene Watson


Loving Healing Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-932690-67-5.
Reviewed by Janet Grace Riehl
Posted on 11/24/2008

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Body Language; Nonfiction: Cultural/Gender Focus

In The Sitting Swing: Finding Wisdom to Know the Difference, Irene Watson tells a powerful story of a childhood damaged by emotional and physical abuse—and more importantly, the path that leads her to healing and recovery. The book's subtitle refers, of course, to Reinhold Niebuhr's words, so well-known in the Recovery Community as The Serenity Prayer: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

Without preachiness or moralizing or sparing her own shortcomings, Watson structures her story in four parts, making a wise decision to create a mix of one part past childhood trauma and three parts transformative journey in the Avalon Recovery Center in Washington State.

Memoirs often center around the conflict of a personal difficulty that touches on our universal story. Of the three methods of story telling found in memoir—narrative, descriptive, and exposition—Watson most often uses narrative devices such as anecdote, character, and setting a scene. This also is a wise choice as the narrative devices move the story along at a good clip and keeps the reader involved, even during the most painful parts of her story revolving around an over-controlling mother and a too-distant father.

Her childhood trauma is further heightened by the drama of all immigrants who arrive in a new country and do not know how to fit in to the new culture. The conflict of separateness is further heightened by the family's initial location on an isolated farm, thus tightening the tension between farmers and townspeople. Watson's mother was able to establish her rule as one of absolute dominion and one which held her daughter back on all levels.

It was through the healing act of friendship in childhood and later at Avalon that seems particularly to heal Watson's wounds, touch and open her heart, and help her move forward.

Irene Watson left Avalon with a vision for the purpose of her future life: to found Reader Views, a highly successful on-line publicity business for authors seeking mainstream attention for their self-published work. Thus, we can clearly see that the effort this one individual made to turn her life around in turn benefitted many more lives, providing service to a wider community of creative people wanting to get their work out more broadly.


Irene Watson holds a Masters Degree in Psychology, with honors, from Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Currently Watson is the Managing Editor of her book review and author publicity company, Reader Views. She lives with her husband in Austin, Texas. Visit her website.

(See another review of this book, here)

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