Review: The Wishing Year by Noelle Oxenhandler

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.

9 Responses

  1. I received this from Random House a few weeks ago. Based on your review, I might have to move it up in my TBR pile.

  2. I started thinking about EPL after your first paragraph! I don’t remember seeing this in the librarything list, but perhaps I was avoiding it! Thank you for the thoughtful review.

    Congrats on all you book reviewing offers! They are nice to get, and I’ve had a couple but nowhere near the number you’ve had. It can become overwhelming, I can see.

    David A. is a cutie! Thanks for the video. I work every Tuesday night so I never get to watch Idol thus never get sucked it.

  3. Hey, this sounds way less barf than EPL (which I haven’t read and speak totally out of ignorance about, but which seems to me INCREDIBLY forced).

    Great review!

  4. I usually stay away from nonfiction, but I may just have to add this to my TBR pile. Thanks for your review🙂

  5. And it has a gorgeous cover! Who wouldn’t want this on their shelf?

    In all seriousness, this sounds like a wonderful book. I’m always skeptical when it comes to wishful thinking, but who knows, this book might surprise me too🙂

  6. Looks interesting – will add it to my wishlist. An excellent review which told me all I needed to know while not giving anything away.

  7. I got this one from Early Reviewers as well. I need to get to it.🙂 Interesting to hear your thoughts.
    What I loved most about EPL was the travel aspect…not so much the exploration of self. We’ll see how I like this one w/out the travel.

  8. Ok, I have to be honest … this is not a book that I really want to read. But I AM really curious to how her experiment turned out! Feel free to give away the ending in an email to me.😉 LOL

  9. Julie- why am I not surprised?? You get everything! If you review it, let me know so I can link it here.

    Tara- look for me on LT!! I’m Lisamm there, same as here. All the new books are getting to be a bit much.. I’m kinda ready to read something of my own choosing.. not that I’m complaining..

    Raych, it’s not much like Eat Pray Love at all. Well, maybe a little.. but not much.

    kegsoccer, I don’t read a lot of non fiction either but I enjoyed this one. Thanks for stopping by!

    bexadler, I’m a skeptic too. ‘Course it can’t hurt to try..

    Lyzzybee, thanks for the comment!

    Mrs. B, I look forward to reading your review. Let me know when it’s done and I’ll link it here.

    Heather, I’ll email you.

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