Australian writer Candida Baker started out life with an actor father and costume designer mother, surrounded by glamor. But by the time she was 11, her father had left and her mother had withdrawn into alcoholism and depression and had become unable to be a caring loving parent. This could have caused Baker to become sad and bitter. Instead,she learned optimism and a generous spirit through the support and friendship of other women.
In The Wisdom of Women, Baker called on her female friends and family members to share their stories about universal experiences like marriage, motherhood, menopause, sisterhood, depression, and death. The stories are connected by Baker’s own observations and sharing of events from her own life.
The women are from different social and ethnic backgrounds but most work in creative fields such as writing, music, art, television or theater. Their stories are very honest and while handled delicately, no topics are taboo. For instance, lesbianism is addressed in a story about a cigar-chewing aunt and her “friend” whose real relationship was only clear to the writer when as an adult, she realized they were buried together.
These tales elicit a range of emotions from sadness to mild horror, quiet pleasure to laughter Not every story ends happily but every story teaches the women involved valuable lessons.
And that is the only problem with the book. While it is wonderful that in those stories dealing with pain and loss, these women were able to survive and triumph, their attitudes seem a bit too serene. No matter what these women have experienced, you get the feeling that they are all so much older and wiser that they are perfectly well-balanced, never bitter or so angry they would like to scream or throw something. In other words, they give the impression of being a bit too good to be true now, although they have in some cases had wild times or made questionable choices in the past
Nevertheless, this is a charming and often inspiring book that women are sure to enjoy and want to pass along to sisters, moms, and friends. It would be an excellent choice for book clubs or for gift-giving.