Sincerely, The Mentor is the story of an unnamed young woman simply referred to as “She” as her story is chronicled. The story is told by “The Mentor,” whose actual name is also not given—perhaps to protect client confidentiality, but I have a feeling The Mentor is not a psychologist or professional or even a relative of She, but rather a guiding force—readers are left to figure it out for themselves, and I’m sure they will.
The book begins with the main character’s idyllic childhood. She is shown as a child playing with an older male family member, scavenging fruit trees and building sandcastles. The two have a very strong, fun, and trusting relationship…until the day he begins to abuse her sexually; the abuse continues for nine years until she is brave enough to stop it by telling her father.
From this shattered world of innocence, the main character grows into an adult, carrying with her several issues about trust, intimacy, and sexuality, not to mention the usual confusions that people experience just trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up.
The book tracks her experiences as she matures, makes key life decisions, and has adventures, all seen through the eyes of The Mentor, who at times gives her advice, at times only observes her when not wanted in her life, and often confirms what a beautiful being she is.
There are rough moments for the main character—boyfriends lost, a diagnosis of osteoporosis at an extremely young age—but there are also moments of triumph. The book’s interest lies in watching how she learned to cope with and overcome whatever challenges and obstacles come before her. In the process, she experiences self-exploration, working through her past and the way it has molded her self-image. For example, when she discovers she has osteoporosis, the Mentor tries to help her work through her thoughts:
“I probed a bit more, rhetorically claiming that maybe she always had to have something wrong because she did not believe she deserved happiness.
She did not know why she was incapable of being entirely happy. She could be partially happy, but it seemed like there was always something preventing her complete happiness.”
What I most loved about this book is that, eventually, the main character moves past self-concern and fear to learn how to live life fully whatever comes her way, whether it’s skydiving or traveling to foreign countries. And when she travels, she does not go as a tourist but as someone who wants to help others as she has been helped. She travels to various foreign countries from Guatemala to Thailand and across West Africa. She becomes a field research consultant for an energy development program that seeks to improve access to better lighting for households and businesses in Africa. What is wonderful about these efforts to help others is that the author shows how such efforts ultimately help oneself. Eventually, the main character realizes: “Happiness could be had anywhere and at anytime. If war-torn suppressed refugees could cherish life with joy and love, she knew it was possible for her. She knew it was the truth.”
I don’t know how much of this powerful book is autobiographical, but author Jennifer Tracy certainly cares herself about providing electricity to people across the world who must go without light and all the other benefits electricity brings. For that reason, a percentage of the proceeds from every copy sold of Sincerely, the Mentor will be donated to improve the accessibility of better lighting for those living without electricity.
At the end of the book are what I consider some bonus sections—a section about the “truths” the main character learned were false, her fifty lessons on life, and an interview with the author. Here is just one of the lessons, #37, as a sample:
“This is who I am. I want to become a writer. I want to write about issues and experiences close to my heart, close to the hearts of others. I will search out these stories and bring together people from opposite ends of the world. It is not just Americans who have misleading views of people and lifestyles around the world. Such false realities exist the world over. It is not because people don’t want to understand; it is that such stories are not media highlights. I hope I have what it takes to be a bridge between the lives of people around the world and the world. Who do you want to become?”
I love when a book challenges the reader to change for the better. What the main character of Sincerely, the Mentor experiences is heartbreaking, but how she changes the focus from herself to healing others’ pain is a lesson we all need to hear and can benefit from as a model for ourselves.
For more information about Jennifer Lee Tracy and Sincerely, The Mentor as well as the upcoming sequel, visit the author’s website.