Kirkus Review: A Mythic Sisterhood

A skillfully written self-help work that takes an offbeat approach to its subject.
A psychologist uses ancient Greek goddesses as archetypes of human behavior.

In this debut psychology book, Escher applies the concept of Jungian archetypes to a collection of classical deities, specifically aiming to explain to female readers how their inner Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, and Demeter shape their behaviors and emotions. Persephone, for instance, “finds the seeds of strength in the victim’s story,” while Artemis “wastes no time with emotional pirates.” Escher illustrates the archetypes with her own stories from more than three decades of work as a therapist, showing how various traits can help or hinder women throughout their lives: “Don’t think for one minute that once you make the changes you need to make for yourself that everyone will cheer.” In the book’s construction of the archetype concept, a woman may embody some or all of the goddesses’ characteristics at different times and benefit from understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each one. Over the course of the book, Escher does an excellent job of connecting archetypal characteristics to specific actions and beliefs, and she shows how a woman’s embrace of archetypes can have wide-ranging implications in her life. Each chapter includes questions for reflection, designed to help readers understand the role of archetypes in her own life. In the book’s final section, Escher tells her own story, describing “the highlights and low points of my life as the goddess archetypes had their way with me” and how she has learned from her experiences and developed a deeper understanding of herself.

Escher is a strong writer, and as a result, her book is highly readable and often amusing, as when she notes that “Hera was the switchboard operator who scheduled my wifely duties.” Her evident passion for the archetype concept and her confidence in its viability gives her prose a sense of power and authority throughout. Readers who are interested in exploring their inner selves will find useful tools for self-assessment in this book. It does have its limitations, however; with the exception of portions of the chapter on Artemis, Escher often addresses the book to a heterosexual audience, as when she writes, “A creative man is thrilled to have an Aphrodite woman like you in his life, a true mirror of his anima.” There are also several minor errors, such as a conflation of the stories of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and occasional misspellings (“Alpha Romero”; “Kathryn Hepburn”); these are distracting, but they don’t ultimately detract from the book’s overall message. It’s evident that Escher has thought deeply about the archetypes that she discusses, and that she draws on a substantial reservoir of experience and study in the field of psychology. Readers familiar with New Age–style self-help texts, in particular, will likely find its approach to self-knowledge effective and illuminating, and its frequent questions will inspire productive discussion. Those searching for a female-centered, intuition-driven approach to understanding relationships, decision-making, and emotions will find it useful.

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