Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Don't Make Assumptions

Three Daughters
by Letty Cottin Pogrebin

Several years ago, at the recommendation of my good friend KB, I read the book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz. The four agreements are based on Toltec wisdom from Mexico, and have to do with getting the most out of life and from your relationships with other people. I don't remember all the details, but the four agreements have stuck with me and have often helped me keep things in perspective. The four agreements are 1) always be clear, 2) don't make assumptions, 3) don't take anything personally, and 4) always do your best. Three Daughters is a novel that shows the unintended consequences that can come about when people make unwarranted assumptions about one another. The three primary characters, a set of semi-estranged sisters, end up isolated from one another because of mistaken assumptions that they have about each other and other members of their family. Leah, the radical "Second Wave" feminist, assumes that her more traditional sister is a close minded dunce. Shoshanna, the youngest sister, harbors regrets for decades about assumptions she made about her own mother. These are just a couple of examples of relationships that take a wrong turn because one or more parties do not have adequate information.

There's lots of good history in this novel - both of the feminist movement and of Judaism. I did not know this, but Letty Cottin Pogrebin was an active feminist in the 1970s and co-founded Ms. magazine along with Gloria Steinem. I've got to send a shout out to my sensitive New Age Husband for recognizing the name and pointing that interesting fact out to me. (Love you, E.!). She also wrote the introduction for that beloved 70s childhood classic book and record Free to Be You and Me. Who knew? Anyway, Pogrebin seems to draw on her own experiences in the feminist movement and in the Jewish faith to develop her characters and craft her storyline. She manages to throw in a lot of historical and cultural references without being didactic or preachy. There are also some parts of the story that are very funny.

Overall, though, I would say that the book is about the toxicity of secrets and the danger of assumptions. It made me wonder how often we deprive ourselves of authentic relationships with people because of the erroneous conclusions to which we so easily jump. Pogrebin's novel also, though, reminds us that it is never too late for reconciliation and never too late to make a fresh start. All things are possible, especially when we are bound together by ties of blood, faith, and tradition.

Reverent Reader


At 12/9/08, 9:25 PM , Blogger Roy said...


I remember Letty Cottin Pogrebin from back in the day, too. I very much appreciate the combination of her book with the other. Very helpful.


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