Monday, January 5, 2009

When life gives you lemons, call it like you see it

Let me start off by saying: I don’t like to give negative book reviews, but sometimes there’s no way around it.

I will preface my review of Nancy Stampahar’s book "Peace, Love and Lemonade: A Recipe to Make Your Life Sweeter" by saying I acquired my review copy from the author under the assumption that I could treat what appears to be a self-help book as a business book, or at least apply it to business.

This book, however, is more like a pep talk for life, which comes as little surprise when we learn that Stampahar is a Pittsburgh-based motivational speaker.

The premise for "Peace, Love and Lemonade" (Silver Lining Solutions, 2008, $14.95, 175 pp.) is cute: A recipe for making your life sweeter. You start by choosing to "make lemonade" in your life. You take your "lemons" — aka the tough experiences in your life — remove the seeds (emotions of anger, fear, guilt and shame), harvest the "lighthearted zest" and sweeten with courage, assertiveness and passion. Blend with 1/3 cup each accountability, attitude and action.

Stampahar uses examples from her own life challenges and how she overcame them. A drug user and one-time high-school dropout, she had an epiphany after finally achieving her goal of earning her high school diploma: "I realized that if I make myself happy first, I can make others happy too."

Throughout, Stampahar informs the reader of other life lessons, incluing "You are the one person who is responsible for your life," and "No matter how tough our lives have been, we can reach ‘our greatness potential’," and "It’s never too late to get happy."

I’m afraid this short drink of "lemonade" is too sweet and Pollyannaish for me. It reminds me of an "inspirational" column that runs in The Mercury on Sundays that contains declaration after declaration of basically the same advice: "You can do it!" It’s tough to read because the paragraphs never go anywhere. It’s all, "You can do it!" and "Like I said before, you can do it!"

Likewise, Stampahar’s advice seems to be well-meaning, but is hard to swallow and, at times, a little scattered. Consider the following sentence from the chapter entitled "The Lighthearted Zest": "This would not be a true peace, love and lemonade book if I did not briefly share my live music experiences." Wait. What? She goes on to describe her love of collecting ticket stubs from concerts.

It seems Stampahar had a sound premise, but her execution suffers from saccacharinity. Such as the page on which Stampahar quotes the entire lyrics from the song Whitney Houston made popular in 1986, "The Greatest Love of All."
That’s where she lost me entirely.

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