Sonderbooks Book Review of Waking the World

Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations

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*****Waking the World

Classic Tales of Women and the Heroic Feminine

by A. B. Chinen, MD

Reviewed March 5, 2006.
Jeremy B. Tarcher/Putnam, New York, 1996.  280 pages.

After I read Once Upon a Midlife, by Allan B. Chinen, I wanted to read more that he had written.  I found Waking the World on Amazon only as a used book, but I’m glad I ordered it.  Like the earlier book, this book presents a series of fairy tales, and then he comments on how they apply to modern day women’s lives.

In Waking the World, Dr. Chinen looks again at adults portrayed in fairy tales.  This time, he focuses on women and their role in the world.  He sees archetypes and truths for all time in these tales.  Indeed, it’s amazing that common themes run through the tales, from all over the world, from different cultures and times.

Dr. Chinen introduces the tales, “In familiar fairy tales like ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ a girl or young woman sleeps under an evil spell until a brave hero awakens her.  Not so with the fairy tales in this book.  Gathered from around the world, these stories focus on adult women and reverse the plot of ‘youth stories’—it is now the king who sleeps, and the queen who must awaken him, liberating their land from a curse.  In portraying strong women changing the world, the tales are deeply relevant to women today.  Handed down over many generations, the stories offer astute advice and encouragement for women seeking deeper, more fulfilling lives.”

He says, “I have grouped the tales in this book into five sections, each addressing a major theme.  The first deals with power as traditionally defined in most cultures, the second with a woman’s inner wisdom, often ignored or repressed by society.  Nature as a sanctuary and source of healing for women is the theme of the third section, while the fourth focuses on the ancient motif of sisterhood.  The last section sums up the preceding themes and portrays reconciliation with men.

“Ultimately, women’s tales contain a challenge and a promise.  Handed down from grandmother to granddaughter, the stories show women reclaiming their wisdom and strength, waking the world from a long oppressive slumber.”

With this book, you get a dozen entertaining stories that illustrate ancient wisdom.  This is going to be a year of transition for me.  We’ll be moving back to the States, my oldest son is going off to college, I’ll lose my job and hopefully start a Master’s program in library science, and my husband wants a divorce.  Coming from a place of transition and difficulty, it was good to read about the archetypal woman’s struggle, to think that something is going on here that’s bigger than myself.

I like one conclusion from the last tale:  “Deep love—the reunion of the deep feminine and the deep masculine—does not guarantee domestic tranquility!  In fact, the story shows that deep communion is possible only with much fire and tears.”

I would very much like for the reunion of feminine and masculine in my life to be the restoration of my marriage.  However, if that doesn’t happen, I’m going to have to reclaim some more “masculine” characteristics and face the world on my own.  This book encouraged me to face the quest.

Dr. Chinen concludes the book, “If women persevere on their journeys, despite the fear, heartache, and cultural backlash, the stories promise an immeasurable reward—women awaken to the true self and the deep feminine within, and in the process they wake up the whole world.  The journey of women is long, difficult, and often confusing, but its ultimate result is the redemption of all worlds, inner and outer.”


Reviews of other books by Allan B. Chinen:
Once Upon a Midlife
In the Ever After

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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