December 28, 2014

Exit: The Endings that Set Us Free
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

Connecting the Dots – Harvard professor and MacArthur prize-winning sociologist Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot notes that leave-takings are the norm in U.S. society, observes that our culture routinely neglects the “rituals and purposes of exit,” and suggests that people need to “learn not just the art of beginning anew but also the grit and grace of good exits.” She divides her book into several chapters: “Home,” “Voice,” “Freedom,” “Wounds,” “Yearning,” “Grace” and concludes with “Rites and Rituals.” Along the way, she shares insights from various scholars and artists, including, psychologists Erik Erikson and Carol Gilligan, economist Albert Hirschman, historian and activist W.E.B DuBois, and writers Jean-Paul Sartre and Joan Didion. Mostly, her book focuses on the stories of real people who are confronting a variety of transitions, from relationships that are ending to careers that are changing to death. Lawrence-Lightfoot is a master at connecting the dots – listening to what is being said and how what’s said is being expressed, reflecting upon those stories, synthesizing those tales with insights drawn from other smart thinkers, and summarizing lessons to be learned. That doesn’t mean the reader leaves this book with a tidy to-do list of instructions; rather, Lawrence-Lightfoot exits her book by stimulating us to ponder the many transitions in our own lives and to plot our own best departures.


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