It’s a rare and wonderful thing when a book arrives in the mail that’s so superb, not only can I not put it down, but I can’t stop reading it over and over again. Such is the case for Sara Avant Stover’s remarkable book, The Way of the Happy Woman. This isn’t just another self improvement manual-- as Avant states quite correctly that self improvement books don’t work--it’s more of a seasonally inspired guideline to help women find their true nature, by becoming attuned to the cycles of nature itself.
The book is divided into five sections. The first covers the basics of living life as simply and as healthily as one can. In this section, the reader is introduced to the basics of journaling, and becoming more attuned to our inner dialogue. Avant guides us through our daily cycles, then monthly cycles, where special focus is placed on menstruation. This section also covers the basic principles of yin yoga—a personal favorite—as well as nutrition. Avant emphatically states that The Way of the Happy Woman is NOT a diet book, but she does offer choices, especially seasonal food choices that fall in line with thoseour ancestors—of just a few generations or so ago—would have made. Also, Avant offers the reader a meditation primer, as well as an introduction to yin and yin flow yoga.
The first part of the book lays the foundation for the rest of the text. From there, Avant skillfully marries the techniques she describes in the Basics section with each season of the year. The next four parts focus primarily on each season, starting in spring, with an introduction, a yin yoga manual which compliments each season, a section on nutrition as well as a few recipes. There are special instructions as well, on how to do a one day personal retreat, how to meditate, how to brush your skin and other treasures. There is also focus on the sacredness of a woman’s menstrual cycle. There are also fun little exercises to play with throughout the book, each exercise reflecting the season of the year. And of course, there’s journaling.
The Way of the Happy Woman is beautifully written, the yoga manuals are easily understood, the food interesting and delicious. If I have any complaint at all it is this: I wish Avant had given menopausal women more things to do that relate to them…or us…as I should say since I am a lady of a ‘certain’ age.’ Despite that one small criticism, I still maintain that The Way of the Happy Woman is not just an outstanding book—which it is—but a treasure. Each page should be savored slowly, like a bag of Lindt dark chocolate truffles.
I do hope that in the future, Avant will write something along the same lines as this wonderful book for “ladies of a certain age.” When she does, I’ll be first in line eagerly awaiting a copy.
~reviewed by Patricia Snodgrass
Author: Sara Avant Stover
New World Library, 2011
pp. 288, $15.95