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Paperback Book Details
  • 09/2020
  • 9781631527470 B083FLKVSW
  • 272 pages
  • $16.95
Brave(ish): A Memoir of a Recovering Perfectionist

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

At forty, Margaret quits her sales job to follow her husband’s hotel career to Paris. She’s setting sail on this adventure with a glass half full of bravery, a well-traveled passport, a journal in which she plans to write her novel, and the mentally engrained Davis Family Handbook of Rules to Live By. Everyone tells Margaret she’s living the dream, but she feels adrift without a professional identity. Desperate to feel productive and valued, she abandons her writing and throws herself into new roles: perfect wife, hostess, guide, and expatriate. When she and her husband move to Cairo, however, the void inside she’s been ignoring threatens to engulf her. It’s clear that something needs to change, so she does the one thing she was raised never to do: asks for―and accepts―help. Over the next fifteen years abroad, the cultures of Egypt, Thailand, and Singapore confront Margaret with lessons she never would have learned at home. But it’s only when they move back to Chicago―with Margaret now stepping into the role of perfect caretaker to her parents―that she has to decide once and for all: will she dare to let go of the old rules and roles she thinks keep her safe in order to step into her own life and creative destiny?
Reviews
Ghielmetti’s earnest debut memoir shares her experiences over 15 years in various global locales as the wife of a Swiss hotelier. During their years abroad in service to his career, she struggles to unlearn the exacting rules in the Davis Family Handbook. Expending endless effort on being the perfect wife and hostess, and taking care of others while neglecting her own wants and needs, leaves her lonely, stressed, and reliant on alcohol. With the grace she receives from finding God and the sage wisdom of a former drinking buddy, she pursues sobriety and slowly learns to lighten up on herself. After returning to Illinois to care for her aged parents, improvisation and story-telling classes empower her to “air her dirty laundry” as a spoken-word artist.

Formal prose and an excess of daily details slow the pace somewhat, but there’s still much to enjoy in this intimate work. Readers wary of a recovery-based or religious memoir can relax: the author does not linger for long on either aspect, choosing to use them as illustrations, and her brief conversations with God will also resonate with nonbelievers as she struggles with universal concerns and questions.

Ghielmetti’s story offers valuable lessons for women who feel driven to take care of everyone else at their own expense. Perfectionists will see that the world will not come to an end if they loosen up and allow others to help. She demonstrates that middle age is not too late to learn the value of a little selfishness. Finally, she shows that personal growth requires doing things that are scary—though maybe not every day—and encourages readers to take each day one step at a time. Anyone who needs a nudge in the direction of self-indulgence will find a very pleasant one here.

Takeaway: Women of a certain age, particularly those who are perfectionists, will enjoy this blend of memoir, travelogue, and self-help advice.

Great for fans of Elizabeth Tallent’s Scratched, Robin Romm’s The Mercy Papers, Andrea Martins’s Expat Women.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

Formats
Paperback Book Details
  • 09/2020
  • 9781631527470 B083FLKVSW
  • 272 pages
  • $16.95

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