Last week, I mentioned how much I dislike self-help books. That wasn’t entirely fair to Geneen Roth, whose Lost and Found I was finishing up at the time. Roth only writes in the self-help genre, churning out books to assist individuals looking to improve their lot in life. Thanks Geneen, so kind of you. She’s the author of Women Food and God, which hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2010. Evidentally, Roth has experienced considerable strife with her body image over the years and found it her life’s work to examine her/our relationship with food and how for most of us, it’s highly complex and mostly neurotic. Lost and Found is a departure for her because instead of dissecting the reasons why we eat a pint of Häagen Dazs before bed (sometimes under the covers) when we’re not hungry, she attempts to unravel why money is the root of all evil (hint: we love it/it makes us crazy).
Roth can turn a phrase, turn it again, then turn it three more times to make her point. The effect is head-spinning, or frustrating depending on how you approach advice offered by another. Here’s what happened: Roth and her husband had nearly a million dollars, all of their money, invested with…wait for it…Bernie Madoff. One afternoon, a friend called to tell her that all of it was gone. Poof!
Roth reacted as we all would, experiencing stages of grief, self-flagellation, partial yet temporary insanity – and then she sat down to write about it, discovering that her irrational attitude toward money – even with a million, she didn’t think she had enough – was almost exactly the same as her difficult association with food. It’s fascinating, disturbing, enlightening, thought-provoking, generous, self-deprecating, at times pathetic, educational, and very, very sad. Money has surely screwed us all up at one time or another, or perhaps always, even as we know in our core that it simply cannot buy happiness. More of it can make life easier, too much or too little of it can create misery. No amount brings fulfillment. Roth posits that the only people who do not have insane relationships with money are those who are willing to examine that relationship. She can count herself among them.
I dog-eared several pages because I thought that going back and reading certain passages again would bring me out of darkness. Sadly, it will take more work than that. (It’s why I hate self-help books. So much pressure!) One of my favorite pages had Roth referencing Daniel Gilbert’s book Stumbling on Happiness: “…he wrote that people are terrible predictors of what will make them happy. We think being rich or going to Tahiti or having a gaggle of kids will be the answer, but we’re consistently wrong. ‘Indeed’, he writes, ‘an act of parenting makes most people about as happy as an act of housework.’”
That made me laugh. And kids cost so much money!
If you can stomach self-help books, Roth’s is among the more worthy particularly because, even if some of us have no issues with food, ALL of us can relate to concerns about money. She’s a good writer, one that demonstrates an honest attempt to help others on their journey by telling us about her own.
(This is a paid review for BlogHer but they can’t tell me what to say no matter how many millions they throw my way. The opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone!)