After losing her high-octane job as an entertainment blogger, Noelle Hancock was lost. About to turn twenty-nine, she'd spent her career writing about celebrities' lives and had forgotten how to live her own. Unemployed and full of self-doubt, she had no idea what she wanted out of life. She feared change—in fact, she feared almost everything. Once confident and ambitious, she had become crippled by anxiety, lacking the courage required even to attend a dinner party—until inspiration struck one day in the form of a quote on a chalkboard in a coffee shop:
The only thing I know about Eleanor Roosevelt is this quote:
No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
which turned out to be fine because I learned a lot about her in My Year with Eleanor! Not that it’s a proper biography, of course, but it’s got enough stuff about her to have convinced me to add a few ER biographies to my to-be-read list.
Did you know she didn’t really become her own person until she was middle aged? She lived in a cabin with two lesbians, and went on tours across the country giving speeches, and went flying in an airplane back when women didn’t “do that,” and oversaw the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and did a whole bunch of other neat stuff. Lookit!
I really love the idea of taking inspiration for positive life change from a historical hero, even IF it results in the creation of a stunt memoir. I am not a huge fan of stunt memoirs, but this one is better than most because a) I don’t think the author purposefully set out doing her year with the end goal of writing a book1 and b) by completing her year of no fear, the author has for sure changed the course of her life from now on. How many other stunt memoirists can say the same?
My Year with Eleanor is very charming and inspirational! Especially for someone like moi who has a lot of fears and not much motivation to get over them. I liked reading about Noelle’s adventures, and I even liked Noelle, which definitely helps with book enjoyment. It was fun following her around while she did crazy things like skydive and swim with sharks. Kind of like living vicariously or something.
There’s also some sweet stuff with her perfect boyfriend and her family and friends, and they’re all very witty and NYC-ish in that way where their dialogue is totally unbelievable. I wish the writing was just a little bit better; it got the job done, but it also felt very amateurish, like the worst kind of xoJane articles or something.2 Since the author is a professional writer, it really knocked me for a loop.
Are you a scaredy-cat, too? I actually found My Year with Eleanor pretty inspirational, though not in an annoying, self-help kind of way. It was great seeing somebody make a plan of attack and GO FOR IT– and see it through to the end, too! After finishing it I figured that if she can do a whole year of scary stuff, I can do a few things to be less scared now and then.
Read: August 5-6, 2014