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Anderson teaches us acceptance of bodies that change, and now must serve us in new ways.

Book Review: ‘Stretch Marks: Essays for the Unfinished Woman’ by Joan Anderson

Joan Anderson built her following through a best-selling book, A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman.

Subsequent books on the theme of women finding purpose in the second half of life continue to help people find and refine their role as life changes. These newer books include A Walk on the Beach: Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman, and The Second Journey: The Road Back to Yourself.

Now in Stretch Marks: Essays for the Unfinished Woman, Anderson compiles her newest personal essays in three critical sections:  Accepting the Self, Embracing Relationships (including when you know you don’t fit in as before), and Facing the Future, culminating with the important essay “There is No Compensation for an Unlived Life.”

Think of “Stretch Marks” in terms of stretching ourselves, rather than worrying over wrinkles or other signs of aging. Those of us fortunate to have reached the age where the corporate ladder and child-rearing are over, now have time to look toward the next phase of life in our 50s, 60s, 70s and revel in them.

How exactly will we do that? How do we fit into our family when the dynamics have changed? What do we value? Are we finally free to spread our wings? Anderson teaches us acceptance of bodies that change, and now must serve us in new ways.With her humility and masses of humor, we are reminded our physical presence is shifting. It is longer an issue of fat vs. figure or size vs. sex appeal. As she says: “It’s about function because I want, indeed need, to participate in my own life. We are each made of spirit, mind and body. If I can’t accept how my body is evolving, I will never be completely at peace with myself.”

Stretch Marks is an important reminder to all of us that our future is always within our grasp.

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