You know you’re in for a ride when a book starts with a woman—in this case, the author’s then-21-year-old grandmother—tossing her suitcase from a moving train, then leaping herself. “She did what anyone following her dream would do,” life coach Susanna Liller explains in the preface to You Are a Heroine: A Retelling of the Hero’s Journey.
Fortunately, Liller’s book doesn’t encourage readers to jump out of vehicles. Rather, it’s designed to “awaken the Heroine” in ordinary women and help them reach their potential in areas ranging from career and parenting to social activism. “The Heroine’s Journey,” she writes, “is ultimately all about the Heroine allowing herself to become herself.”
Building on the work of the late author Joseph Campbell, who linked classical myths to common psychological themes, Liller guides readers with chapter-by-chapter steps of the Journey, such as the “Call,” which represents the urge to do something different; learning to interact with major characters like naysayers and supporters, and coming to grips with figurative dragons that represent deep fears and challenges. Three real-life heroines—women who’ve seen their share of life-changing events, from divorce to chronic illness—share stories throughout, and their motivational quotes appear at the beginning of each chapter along with Campbell’s. Writing exercises are embedded in the prose.
With occasional references to Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Liller also gives relatable examples of her personal Journey milestones, including how the shock of having a pet project put on the back-burner by the boss quickly led to a new self-employment venture.
The author’s straightforward, conversational writing is a pleasure, but it’s her ability to help women interpret their circumstances in a more adventurous, intuitive way that makes this book unique. While male heroes have been traditionally defined by their physical battles, “Heroineism,” she writes, “is about having the courage to expand from within.” The Heroine’s Journey gives us a fresh way of seeing just how far we can go.
Highly recommended for fans of Joseph Campbell
Also available as an ebook.