Idea/Concept: Sandra Stachowicz's Leap Afraid offers spirited, earthy advice for women about embracing change and rebuilding a life after adversity. The author offers a recounting of her own triumph over hardships, thoughtful "Action Steps" to guide a reader toward self-love and decision-making, and an overriding belief that the universe itself has a plan for us all. The book's marketing and introductory material makes outsize claims about how it will impact readers, but the author shrewdly, clearly alerts readers to what to expect in her introduction, which includes a welcome section titled "Who this book is not for?" There, in her customary straight talk, the author declares " I don’t know you. I don’t know how committed you are. Your results are 100% your responsibility, not mine, not someone else’s."
Prose: Always true to herself, Stachowicz writes with force and conviction in a brusque, frank, sometimes hectoring voice. Her acknowledgments page (in which she lists people who have wronged her) and her introduction signal strongly to readers that this book is a love-it-or-leave-it proposition. Even readers who feel on the author's wavelength may be surprised later at discussion of a voice in the author's head as "an inner prostitute" and the subsequent declaration, "I silenced the bitch." Throughout the book, Stachowicz often makes harsh or sweeping declarations without really backing them up, which might alienate even the readers who find her impoliteness refreshing.
Originality: Stachowicz tells her own story with vigor and candor, and her advice, anecdotes, examples, and "Action Steps" are unique to her. Especially strong is her insistence that readers love their imperfections and practice what she calls the "radical self-love" of selfishness.
Execution: Despite the appealing, somewhat harsh voice, and the frank wisdom of much of the author's advice, Leap Afraid proves a frequently confusing or contradictory text, one that does not often enough address or anticipate readers' responses or objections. The manuscript teems with sweeping, unsupported declarations ("When you resist change, you mess up the universe's plan") and overstated promises ("Be a bad girl and the stars will align in your favour; ALL of them!") that cut against the truthful power of the author's vivid storytelling and well-crafted self-help exercises.
Date Submitted: January 25, 2020