The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler is the non fictional account of an experiment in desire. Oxenhandler takes one year to explore the act of wishing- think birthday candles, genies in a bottle, a wishing well. She focuses her desires on 3 very different wishes- a house (after years of house rental), a man (after the end of a long marriage), and spiritual healing (after a painful separation from her spiritual community). She decides to try “putting it out there” to see what happens.
She doesn’t flee the country in pursuit of these things, a la Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. Instead she attempts, through the mysterious power of wishful thinking, to attract the things she desires into her life rather than actively seeking them out.
In the introduction she defines what she means by “wish”- a desire that takes aim, or hope with a point- not unlike an arrow. Her year of wishing begins on New Years Day, and her fairy godmother-like friend Carole is her mentor in this endeavor. The book is laid out month by month, January to December.
Does she really believe in getting what she wants through wishing? From the beginning she has to perform “a willing suspension of disbelief” and asks herself, “If I acted as though this were true [that wishing can make things happen], would it bring about a positive change in my life?”
A spiritual person, she is conflicted over what is ok to wish for- her Catholic upbringing and her study of Zen Buddhism as a young adult makes it difficult and somewhat guilt laden for her to ask for material things. Through her research into the ancient human art of wishing, she soon tweaks her way of thinking and chooses to be open to the blessings of the universe. When she wishes in the mode of the ancestors, she says, she adopts “an attitude that is both confident and humble. I commit to doing everything within my human power to make something happen-while also recognizing that my human power is limited.” Wishing, apparently, takes over when human knowledge and effort can carry you no further.
Do wishes attract allies and abundance? Or do wishes make us vulnerable to disappointment? That is the experiment behind The Wishing Year, an experiment that surpassed Oxenhandler’s expectations. I found it inspiring and would recommend it to anyone who has ever wished upon a star.
I received this book through the early reviewers group at Library Thing. It will be released on July 8, 2008.
Here is the author’s biography from Random House: Noelle Oxenhandler is the author of two previous nonfiction books, A Grief Out of Season and The Eros of Parenthood. Her essays have appeared in many national and literary magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Vogue, Tricycle, Parabola, Utne Reader, and O: The Oprah Magazine. She has taught in the graduate writing program at Sarah Lawrence College and is a member of the creative writing faculty at Sonoma State University in California. A practicing Buddhist for more than thirty years, Oxenhandler is the mother of a grown daughter and lives in Northern California.