Monday, July 30, 2012

Fortytude: Making the next decades the best years of your life---through the 40s, 50s, and beyond

By Sarah Brokaw

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D. 

This is a 262-page book that is a well-written collection of stories that Brokaw has drawn from her therapy practice in Beverly Hills, California.  There are many similar books, and there is no question that they make interesting reading.  There are a total of 46 notes, 27 of which come from the Internet.

There are five core values (1. Grace, 2. Connectedness, 3. Accomplishment, 4. Adventure, and 5. Spirituality) that form the major parts of the book, then each part has three chapters, which, along with an introduction and conclusion form the eighteen chapters of the book.

Throughout the book, Brokaw references her family (“Of course, my parents did not view things this way” (p. 107).) the way she grew up (“Still, to this day, I can struggle with the sense of not being good enough. . . .” (p. 09).) , and even how she occasionally seeks their opinion.  “Naturally, I consulted my mother and father for their opinion on this subject” (p. 86).  Tom Brokaw, the former NBC news reporter, is her father.

Brokaw has a master’s degree in social work from New York University, and throughout the book she cites her work as a therapist as her basis for saying things: “In my practice, I’ve observed that many people cheat. . . .” (p. 93).  “As a therapist, I’ve also learned that a lot of clients have a hard time talking about sex” (p. 174).  “As I work with couples, I strive to help them understand. . . .” (p. 175).  She dispenses advice such as, “I generally suggest that single women not date online, go to bars, get set up on blind dates, or buy tickets to expensive events if they sincerely feel that they won’t enjoy themselves” (p. 194).  Aren’t readers lucky to have her advice?

You learn a great deal about Sarah Brokaw from reading her book.  She talks about her upbringing, her education, her current status (“At 40, I am still not married, though I have been in and out of long-term relationships” (p. 191).)  And her advice is sprinkled throughout the book: “‘You can’t change what’s happened in your life, but you can change your narrative.’  This is something I say frequently to my clients. . . .” (p. 225), or “It may sound strange to some, but I found deep spiritual satisfaction in surfing” (p. 240). This makes the book a more enjoyable read, it is true, and I can see why some readers will not just get hooked on the narrative, but adopt her ideas as proven ideas.

Having read the reviews of her book at, I am not surprised that most give her book a five-star rating, however, I am a little suspect.  I wonder about the influence Tom Brokaw might have had in these.  Perhaps, for example, he passed the book to some of his friends who posted their reviews and ratings.  I am not saying the book is not deserving of these reviews, I am just saying that it looks very suspicious.

Having examined a number of books using this same format (narratives of clients’ lives as the main support for the author’s observations (and even selecting five core values, key principles, important concepts, or essential beliefs), I find this book similar in kind.  It is interesting, true, but I don’t think it offers a large number of new ideas.  It may be worthwhile for those who need encouragement, support, or just an uplifting, inspiring read.  There is no question Brokaw can revitalize and give a shot in the arm to those who are reaching or have recently passed their 40th birthday.

Fortytude: Making the next decades the best years of your life—through the 40s, 50s, and beyond can be purchased at Amazon

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