2 out of 4 stars
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Loving Well: The Key to Satisfying and Joyful Relationships by Erin Leonard is a book offering examples and advice for relationships. Both romantic partnerships and parent-child relationships are covered, with my personal favorite sections being the parent-child scenarios. The author’s parenting insights are spot on. The sections covering partnerships are more hit and miss, though they’re useful for the specific case of being trapped in an emotionally unfulfilling or abusive relationship.
The book’s title doesn’t quite line up with the bulk of the actual content. It’s far less about general advice for strengthening relationships and mostly about recognizing and dealing with toxic people, described by the book as “emotionally unevolved.” The narrower focus on toxic relationship dynamics is fine, but the title should reflect this.
If I have one big issue with the book, it’s the tendency to apply a fairly black and white interpretation of toxic relationships. Such relationships are always presented as being between an “emotionally unevolved” person and an “emotionally evolved” person. The emotionally unevolved are almost a parody: endlessly selfish, toxic, and abusive. They are presented as shallow to the point of heartlessness, incapable of experiencing real love or any finer human feelings. Evolved people experience the opposite treatment. They are presented as put-upon saints who can basically do no wrong save for loving and sacrificing too much to the undeserving.
This presentation persists throughout the book and got on my nerves after a while. It’s unprofessional in how reductionist and bitter it can get and only serves to undermine a lot of the good advice otherwise present. I can’t imagine anyone fitting the criteria of an “unevolved” person would self-identify as such. Rather, they’ll identify with the “evolved” person and gain no insights. The author has seemingly already written them off as a lost cause. This issue was pervasive and bothersome enough that I was moved to remove a star from my rating.
There are also numerous typos and grammatical errors, for which I had to remove another star. The book starts off strong but gets weaker in its editing as it goes on. The overall effect is to make the book appear unprofessional. This isn’t a unique issue with independently published works, but that doesn't excuse it. Choosing to publish independently doesn’t mean standards should be lowered, and it makes the industry look bad when we release works that aren’t polished.
Overall, I give Loving Well 2 out of 4 stars. I honestly enjoyed the read, for the most part. However, lack of editing and some unprofessional writing choices convinced me to dock a couple stars. It’s by no means a bad book, however, and if you suspect you may be in an unhealthy relationship or want tips on cultivating a closer relationship with your child, it’s worth checking out.
Loving Well, The Key To Satisfying and Joyful Relationships
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