By: Ann Albright
Publisher: True Spirit Publishing
Publication Date: April 2008
Reviewed by: Miriam Leventhal
Review Date: December 23, 2008
In The October Gate: Nine Messages of Love, Healing, and Reassurance for Our Planet, by Ann Albright, we are introduced to Lucy, a woman seeking answers to some of life’s daunting questions. Lucy leaves her home of many years in the south to accompany her husband to his new job assignment in Brooklyn. At first, Lucy is uneasy in her unfamiliar confines, but upon meeting Sarah, an elderly neighbor, Lucy finds a true confidant. Sarah helps Lucy both expand her network of neighborhood friends, and ease her sorrow after a reoccurring bout with cancer. When Sarah unexpectedly dies, Lucy feels a void in her life, but has a sense that she will see Sarah again. These expectations are fulfilled when Sarah reappears as an apparition in Lucy’s life. Sarah, along with a council of advisors, offers to share their accumulated knowledge about life, frailty, and the meaning of human existence. The relationship between the two women accounted for in these pages is heartfelt, thoughtful and realistic. This first section is a prelude to the more substantive passages of the book. As noted in the title, the other chapters of the book focus on how to repair one’s life.
The first lesson looks at the importance of living in the present as Sarah encourages Lucy to "learn to dance" and bring joy into her life. Later chapters reinforce this premise, for example, suggesting that Lucy wear a cowboy hat, a gesture that will bring more than a few suspect glances in New York City, but will also serve to help Lucy take herself less seriously. There are also many mentions of Lucy’s cancer and how one’s attitude may contribute to the causes of illness. Sarah believes that if Lucy is able to live joyfully and with intent, it is possible to reverse the course of the disease. While I believe in the scientific explanation that holds that cancer is caused by carcinogens and deregulation of cell reproduction, I see Sarah’s perspective as a spiritual metaphor. By prescribing that Lucy dance and laugh and not take life for granted, the author is affirming that each of us has the ability, even in illness, to cherish life, reconcile fate, and make amends.
Sarah challenges Lucy to question her convictions and open her heart to new passages. In each chapter Lucy asks Sarah a barrage of questions which are answered in a circuitous manner, leading to more questions. One lesson focuses on ridding ourselves of ego and affirming that a higher spiritual force exists, while other topics concentrate on integrity, truth, love, and power. Sometimes the language can be cumbersome, and some questions are answered more successfully than others, but overall the author’s musings are clearly rendered. With each chapter, Lucy gains more clarity and insight as her malaise gradually turns to content, and even joy.
The October Gate reconsiders questions that mankind has contemplated throughout the ages. The overall message of the book is clearly one of hope and good will, "The most important feature of your human lives is what we shall call the awareness of your own goodness. You see, the moment you tap into one truth: I am eternally good, I’m made of good, I’m experiencing good, all I know of life is good; then you will find the peace you are looking for."
Quill says: A woman in remission after a bout of cancer reflects on the values and purpose of life.
For more information on The October Gate, please visit the author's website at: TheOctoberGate.com