This isn't the kind of book I'd pick up to read and I believe both the cover and the summary do not bring it justice, because it is a wonderful book and it doesn't look like, from the cover and blurb. So I was very lucky to receive a free copy for review, since I can correct that mistake for many people - I can show them how amazing the book really is.
Stella Vance pours her heart out. Her story isn't easy, she's been through a lot. Not so much in suffering (not like abuses or starvation), but more like learning, personal and spiritual growth.
I feel like I connect to her story more than others because I've had my mystical phase and I lost it, sort of.
When I was young, I never went to church. My father, being raised a Lutheran and a church mouse, always wanted to, but mom didn't like it much - just lazy, I guess. I went to church went it was time for confirmation and so I had mine and went there and studied and read the Bible and was proud to memorize everything, just like I always loved studying in school. But I always questioned. And so I went to the internet, not much later (a couple of years later I got my computer with internet) and researched all I could. I made some friends and I found paganism, in general. I was obsessed with Wiccans and Masons and all that stuff, I started collecting stuffs, crystals, incense, little witchy dolls and wearing a pentagram. A friend of mine taught me how to read the cards and I was learning how to read the palm lines. But after a while it faded out for me. I thought "well, now I know what to believe and I know what to do" and went on with life.
I started calling myself an atheist - because, really, there is no "God" (and don't flame on me, this is my view, if you believe in God, fine, I'm not trying to convince you if you don't try to convince me) - but atheist never quite described it. I just have an honest disgust for organized religion and the antropomorphic god they created. And when Stella said that on her book, I knew we'd connect.
Stella Vance tells her story honestly, from the horror and freedom that came with her parents' divorce to her late teens, college years, first loves, travelling, marriages, abortions, experiences with several legal and illegal substances and so on.
She was worried that her abortions might shock. I'm not sure if this is considered a spoiler (or if there is a way to spoil a book as such, because to me, any information doesn't take the fun and the amazement of the story as it's told), if you consider it a spoiler, I apologize. I don't find it shocking - it's "in-character", even if the character isn't fictional, because after a while, reading the book, you understand her and you follow her and you end up expecting her to rationalize and act a certain way - and everything she did was perfectly in character, it fit her personality.
I was shocked (or amazed) at the way she managed to get rid of addictions whenever she felt that she needed to, got rid of diseases and problems simply by wanting it and working with her body and her mind to do what was needed. I still lack much of that self control. But we share the desire to learn and t impove.
The belief in reincarnation is also mine as well as hers. For me, it felt simple, I knew more than I could have learned since I was born and I simply didn't know where the information came from. So I believed I eiter was too smart but had a terible memory for the "where's" or I knew it from a previous life.
Also, there is something I must point out. If the back cover picture is trully Stella's (she's used a pen name to write the book, so perhaps the picture isn't hers as well, but I think it is), then I am in awe. She is beautiful, her body, her confidence, at the age she is now (around 55), well, I don't have that figure and that confidence at the age of 24. I hope by my 40's I have learned how that is.
I also felt a major conection to Stella when she talks about other languages and travelling. I never travel, except to my grandma's which is a 1 hour ride, but I love travelling. On my High School graduation we tavelled 2 states for this paradise-like island and it was amazing. This year, I went 3 times to São Paulo, not the capital, in-state, for work related things, and I loved it, flying, traveling by plane is what I was made for. And now I'm eager to graduate on college because I'm treating myself with a travel instead of a party. I'm still deciding, but I think London ;) And I'm also addicted to new languages and I learn them easily.
Also, I adored how feminist Stella is, even if she doesn't call herself that directly. She believes in herself and in the power of women, she believes in sexual liberation and financial and social independence. I believe that too.
I read this book, seeing myself. I read this book, connecting to each and every sentence.
Around the ending, I disconected a bit because I either didn't get there yet or I'm not going to. When the talk about Advaiti started, I got a little off - I relate to it, but I can't quite merge with that view, not yet. But the idea of seeking enlightnment by learning is perfect with my views - it hurts me, every day, that I know I will never read all the books in the world or learn all there is to learn.
I recommend this book to everyone who is open to new experiences, who cherish a woman's freedom, who is highly espiritulized and who isn't afraid of talking or seeing someone talking openly. You must rid yourself of your prejudices and see Stella for who she is - a flawed human being, who chose the best she could and, really, had great results, harvested great rewards and is still living an amazing life, full of love, freedom and enlightenment.