Review of Jessica Lamb-Shapiro, Promise Land (2014)

promise-land-jessica-lamb-shapiro-2014“It’s ingrained in human nature to look at ourselves with a weary awareness of all that’s wrong within, and the optimism that someone, somewhere can tell us how to fix it. As Jessica Lamb-Shapiro points out in her ambitious if unfulfilling new memoir-cum-odyssey, Promise Land, we’ve been gobbling up self-help advice for nearly as long as the written word has existed, devouring it in the ancient Egyptian Sebayt writings and the Book of Proverbs. But our contemporary mania for the wisdom of Dr. Phil is different from what generations past gleaned from Epictetus or even Dale Carnegie, and Lamb-Shapiro aims to explain how. Along the way, she’s on a quest to fix herself. Lamb-Shapiro, who has written for The Believer and McSweeney’s, is a witty and enjoyably self-aware writer. She’s certainly a far more entertaining guide through hellish terrain — like a preshow interrogation by a ‘Dr. Oz’ producer — than Dante was given.” [. . .]    –Mary Elizabeth Williams, The New York Times, January 3, 2014