Monday, April 4, 2011

Peace and Plenty by Sarah Ban Breathnach

Peace and Plenty:  Finding Your Path to Financial Serenity by Sarah Ban Breathnach has a great deal of promise and certain comes into publication at the right time.  Drawing on her own experience with affluence and loss, the author offers from her heart ways to face the fear that these economic times can stir up.

Promising or not, this book is a disappointment.  Writing from personal experience, Breathnach tries to cloak her reality in sympathetic terms but the sensitive reader will easily sense the anger and anxiety on every page.  She was hurt and her wounds are obviously still very raw but instead of licking them delicately in private, she throws all of her pain all over the place.  And if her purpose is to help her reader feel empowered in spite of circumstances, then it would have probably been a wiser choice to wait until she herself felt powerful.

Instead, she is clearly wounded and the book limps along, poorly organized and familiar.  Familiar because she uses many of the same examples she’s used in previously published books.  This adds to the feeling one gets that she wrote not from a place of necessity, wanting to share her story, but of desperation, needing to share it.  I can understand her turning to publishing as a means to get her out of the financial distress she has gotten herself into.  After all, she is a best-selling author so this is something she does well.  And falling back on your own strengths in time of crisis is commendable.  But when she draws on past inspiration, rehashing the same stories, practically word-for-word, offering the same advice down to the same numbers lists of recommendation verbatim from previously published books one has to wonder why bother reading this one at all?  If she’s already said what she is saying in this book, what is the point of reading this one?

Frankly, none.  What little advice Breathnach gets around to offering her readers, after meandering endlessly about her own problems and revisiting the same stories and inspiration she shared in previous books, the advice she gives is simplistic and inadequate.  What’s more, it is disingenuous.  I said earlier that she was writing from a place of anger rather than power and this is no more evident than in her own advice to keep a secret bank account.  While many, if not all,  financial advisors, will encourage and even urge women to have a separate bank account, Breathnach actually encourages and urges her readers to stash away pin money, to create and keep a separate and secret bank account, etc.

It is not unlike going to a friend who has experienced infidelity in her marriage for relationship advice.  If it is too soon after her realizing that her husband has been dishonest, everything she sees in your relationship will be colored by her own painful experience.  And the author has been hurt, badly.  She takes responsibility for much of what has happened to her and does so, no doubt, to inspire compassion and even a sense of empathy from her readers but, more often than not, I found myself squirming uncomfortably.  Her confessions seemed more like something out of a Jerry Springer Show episode than a one-on-one with Oprah Winfrey, who is in part responsible for Breathnach’s previous success.

No doubt this book will sell very well simply because the author has a following.  And if her readers have little to no memory, they won’t recall that most of the stories she shares in this book are identical to ones she has shared in previous books.  Thankfully, I haven’t read all of her books but I’ve read enough to realize that there is nothing new here and any woman who really wants and needs financial advice for these challenging times would do well to invest her money in buying a book by some other author, even one less popular than this one.

PS: Once again, a book where there are plenty of wonderful quotes without paginated citations.  This is her eleventh book.  One would think by now someone might have asked her to put in some page numbers when referencing a book.  I certainly would appreciate it.

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