Gift from the Sea
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
published by Pantheon Books, New York
1955 (with 2005 updates)
Green Apple Books recommended this small book years ago, and their staff recommendations are EXCELLENT. I enjoyed this book VERY MUCH when I first got it there, and I was delighted to find this edition to reread.
A brief summary: the author makes a strong case for taking time for self-care in the form of peaceful solitude. She argues that women of her day had been raised to give themselves away, and to have anything to give, you need to renew and care for yourself. Lindbergh realized this on a solo vacation, away from her husband and FIVE children; while she enjoyed the companionship of her sister near the end of her trip, she felt whole again after having time with her own thoughts; after living simply and without concern for impressing others; and after having an open schedule without obligations to fulfil.
She also reflects on marriage, raising children, competing views of the role of women in society, and her own privilege.
Readers of my time will see this book as promoting “mindfulness,” enjoyment of the present moment, and a call to examine the noise of materialism to find a more meaningful peace.
It’s a concise, thoughtful, well-worded book on making time to be yourself. This particular edition has an essay by the author’s daughter, plus an afterword in which the author reflects on feminism and American women’s evolving expectations and achievements twenty-plus years later. I found it revelatory the first time I read it, and while I am now more steeped in formal mindfulness training, I still appreciate its concision and clarity.
What I didn’t know when I read it the first time is that Mrs. Lindbergh’s life was more complicated than I knew. I knew her famous aviator husband took a shine to Hitler; I knew her first child was kidnapped for ransom and murdered; I knew she’d written other books. I did NOT know until I was looking up her aviation accomplishments in her Wikipedia profile that one of those books was pro-fascist (!!) and widely condemned, that she’d agreed with her husband’s favorable view of Hitler, and that the book I’m reviewing was part of her efforts to redeem her reputation. Thanks to the same article, I also know that her husband had affairs AND a secret family in Europe (two sisters bore him kids, and he had 7 with at least the three women now known of), which means that I’m ESPECIALLY glad that she did some self-care, because YIKES.