Book Review: My View From The Summit (Vfs)
Book Reviewed by Carol Taylor
My View From The Summit is Nicole Thomas’s “inspiring personal
memoir” reflecting on her experiences and life lessons on motherhood,
family, raising a teenager, self-love, religion, and marriage.
In a series of short vignettes, some as short as half a page, Thomas uses her experiences, and those of her family, as lessons about gratitude, self-actualization, and self-discovery, to show us that, “despite the variations in our life stories, there is always something to learn—common threads that run deeply through the human experience… Even though each of our stories is different, many elements are very much the same. These threads give us color, they give us meaning, and they give us hope.”
Thomas’s memoir is part short vignettes, self-help, and confessional; it examines her life, as a working mother, and a woman, and her memories and experiences in the stories that comprise her life. She hopes that you will find “the gem” in each and they will let you know that you are not alone. Thomas’s touching essays were first documented in her personal blog My View From The Summit (VFS).
Thomas uses everyday moments and regular objects as metaphors for life. In “Aha” she recounts unpacking her “overweight” suitcase at the airport, as a metaphor for freeing herself from “mental baggage”. “…I couldn’t help but think about my life, and how heavy and overpacked my ‘mental’ suitcase is. Just like my suitcase, there is a charge for overpacking my mind with things that are beyond my control. I suddenly realized that the charge for overstuffing is stress, and an inability to concentrate. That is my charge for taking on my cares, and the cares of the world.”
My View From The Summit is succinct and readable, and will probably be read in one sitting. Thomas’s tone is conversational, and her writing is straightforward, accessible, and uncomplicated. Although Thomas’s life has had its many ups and downs—the loss of loved ones, the dissolution of her marriage—she never looks back with regret. She sees each moment, good or bad, as a life lesson that has helped her on her journey to be the person she wants to be.
What makes My View From The Summit appealing is that, although told from a modern perspective some vignettes are filled with age-old lessons: Letting go, not taking on more than we can handle, being grateful, understanding that we can’t control everything and shouldn’t even try. These essays could help the overworked superwoman who is trying to balance being a mother, wife, sister, daughter, employee, who is constantly on the go, and doing it all. Thomas reminds us of the small marvels of life that we should be thankful for, even in the midst of our daily grind. And that, “You can lose your sense of self trying to please other people.”
At times though, some vignettes read more like blog entries than a substantive story with a valuable life lesson. For instance, in “How You Make Me Feel”, Thomas recounts staying in a hotel for a work trip. The front desk could not get her request for gym clothes right and after much back and forth she was left with the wrong size and without essential items. “How Frugal Are You?” is about another stay at the same hotel. This time the staff almost swindled her out of a $16 tip on a $3 coffee bill because she hadn’t had her coffee and wasn’t paying attention. And although I can relate to her frustration, these didn’t quite add up to life lessons. I was also confounded as to why Thomas kept returning to the same hotel if she was unhappy with the service.
The most inspiring vignettes were family based, specifically her conversations with her father, mother and grandmother in a section titled “Advice from Our Elders”. In these “conversations” were real nuggets of information and insight: like not giving up on your dreams, saving your money, staying focused, and not being afraid to take risks. These were practical, nuts and bolts advice culled from years of living that really underscored what Thomas is trying to achieve with her book, which is to offer a wealth of knowledge from life experiences.
My View From The Summit is easy reading, though at times it could have used more careful editing. That said, reading these essays are like sitting with a good friend you’ve known for years and sometimes go to for advice. If you like inspirational, aspirational, life recollections that sometimes touch upon religion, Thomas’s book will appeal to you, and you might even learn something. Thomas considers herself a “work in progress,” if that’s the case; she’s well on her way to being the person she wants to be, if she’s not there already.