House to Lighthouse, that is what Virginia Woolf would idealize for the feminine ideal; Gail Straub takes the same path, but only back home as she returns to her mother’s house to enliven and liberate the spirit of the feminine in its natural, creative, sustainable, and vibrant state. In her heart-winning memoir Returning to My Mother’s House (High Point Books, 2008), the pioneering empowerment expert takes her readers on a personal, spiritual journey around the world, coming full circle back to her childhood house to embrace the feminine spirit of her artist mother, thus continuing the sacred tradition of balancing the undying life forces up to the most wholesome level.
The metaphor of house is not a new one. It has been extensively used in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, usually to symbolize the human sense and need of belongingness. E.M. Forster’s classic Howards End is perhaps the best-known work on extending the metaphor of house to imply ‘legacy’. Gail Straub’s concept of ‘house’ is closely similar to the popular use of ‘house’ as ‘belongingness’, though she customizes its boundaries to include the entire concept of feminine wisdom. Gail’s story starts like any other life story: a girl moving into a new house with her family and gradually coming to enjoying the innocent joys in artistic activity and play. Her mother, intrinsically an artist, taught her painting and creating puppets. Growing up in the joy of creativity and tomboy adventures, Gail gradually brook loose from the feminine and delved deeper into the masculine ideal of overachieving and mastering. Things changed however when she came to learn that her mother had not got long in this world. It was then that she would realize the vitality of the feminine, returning gradually to her feminine roots, and hence, her mother’s house. As her inner self evolves, her story becomes more distinct and so does her narrative tone.
Empowerment, inner empowerment of the creative and free spirit, is the motif in Gail’s story. Her travel around the world for organizing feminine spiritual awareness events, personal decision not to have children, and exchange of learning with other women of spiritual radiance, all culminate in the steady, self-conscious return to values of hope, wisdom, and balance in a life that is always clouded by the unpredictable shadow of death.
In the last chapter, Completing the Circle, Gail would leave her readers emotionally transfixed as she narrates the scene of receiving the news of her brother’s sudden death while she has been going through a series of death experiences among her friends. How a woman who empowers others responds to this moment of trial shows the true healing potential of her work.
Beyond doubt, Returning to My Mother’s House is an empowering book that will be loved by its readers.
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