"The Liminal Lands" by Robyn Sheldon
This beautifully written memoir is part autobiography, part spiritual journey by the author. With something of a fragmented timeline throughout, much of the book reflects Robyn’s viewpoint of her own life in general, particularly the darkest moments, and ultimately turns them into fuel for her personal motivational parable. There is a bitterness eating away at this author, as there are in many who choose the spiritual path, and I do hope that her spiritual journey has helped her to come to terms with it. She beats herself up a lot, as if needing the self-loathing as measure for her spiritual success, as she professes more than small measure of guilt over her childhood of (real) white privilege, growing up in apartheid South Africa and Botswana (this is certainly a timely book, in the current topical environment). There is shame, too, over her adultery, as well as anxiety, low self-esteem and grief over her mother’s death. Robyn holds nothing back in her candour; her whole soul search is carried out in the context of holistic self-analysis, and it is truly comprehensive. Before long, the author embraces Buddhism, and from then seems to envelop herself completely in the spiritual realm – what she calls the “liminal lands”; her commentary on life becomes almost entirely metaphorical as, with the help of her spiritual guide, she guides herself – and us – toward inevitable enlightenment.
I receive a lot of self-help/motivational books, which by the end I think this profound and personal book clearly turns out to be, emphasized by the author directly addressing the reader with meditation advice – and this is as good a one as I have read; in my opinion, it is motivational books like this one, in which the self-help aspect is mostly presented as incidental to the narrative, which are the most effective. The inspiration factor is conspicuous in its subtlety, but Robyn achieves her objective tremendously well with this book.
I won’t pretend that the spiritual metaphor was suited to my cynical and simple mind, and must confess that most of Robyn’s commentary on her experiences in the other plane went way over my head. But, as a literary composition, even I can recognize that it is utterly sublime – Robyn is a stunning author – and I was utterly engrossed, simply just imagining drifting away, listening to her saying the words, even if I didn’t know what many of them were saying; this would make a marvellous audiobook. Although, to be honest, it was very disjointed and non-linear, this in some ways is testament to the author’s hard work; you can see how Robyn certainly had her work cut out focusing enough to write it: just reading is like trying to meditate in the middle of a traffic junction, as she seems to have the truly busiest of minds.
Despite her humility and shame at apartheid, what surprised me perhaps more was the stunning country she appears to take for granted in this book – the African wildlife of lions, zebras and wildebeest are mentioned in passing, as perhaps we might mention a deer or a wild rabbit, all gazed upon form the comfort of the household four-seater aeroplane, as friends fly from one private dust strip to another, visiting each other. This was more fascinating to me than any of the spiritual commentary which was the primary narrative of this book. In fairness, though, Robyn might not focus overly on the geography, but this book is not pure, simple memoir – it is something much, much deeper and more important to the author, as she describes the world, her life and emotions in pure spiritual terms. Truthfully, her language throughout this book is sublime prose, and it is a genuine pleasure to read.
In : Book Reviews
Tags: robyn-sheldon spiritual motivational metaphorical self-help parable