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Book review: Hold On Let Go: How to find your life by Malcolm Doney and Martin Wroe

08 December 2023

Jennie Hogan reviews daily readings, not exclusively Christian

BOOKS of daily readings will be familiar to many. Here, something different is offered that may well suit those accustomed to such a practice, in addition to those entirely new to it.

No Bible passages are found here, and previous knowledge of Christianity is not assumed. Instead, pithy and insightful reflections on life are on offer. Charming drawings by the Anglican priest and artist Malcolm Doney — one of the authors — accompany each reflection, offering a playful, light touch. This collection of modern maxims is described as a “try to” rather than a “how to”, and an air of gentle encouragement instead of instruction pervades it.

Well-seasoned people of prayer may feel that they do not need to be instructed on how to pray, but the tone of the reflection “Say a Little Prayer” not only tenderly teaches those new to praying, but also refreshes others. And, although this collection is generally weighted towards Christianity, insights from other religions abound. Indeed, one chapter, “God is not a Christian (or Muslim, or Jew, or Buddhist, or Sikh, or Hindu, or agnostic)”, invites us to recognise that no one has a monopoly on truth; instead, it is suggested that the search for the divine can be the wisest way.

An illustration by Malcolm Doney from the book reviewed here: “Mealtimes are the perfect lay-by in the daily race, allowing us to pause, reflect and give thanks”

Other reflections are not explicitly religious at all: each one, with the inclusion of a rich and eclectic multitude of writers, from Aristotle to St Ignatius of Loyola, from St Hildegard of Bingen to Bono, genuinely seeks to promote living more meaningfully. The impressive absence of preachiness, churchiness, and silliness is remarkable.

Tricky topics are tackled, too, and the authors resist the tendency to reach for either humour or platitudes. This book is not specifically aimed at adolescents, and yet some wise insights such as “What do you plan to do?”, which daringly encourages “eulogy values” rather than “résumé values”, may illuminate the minds of those seeking to establish — or, indeed, enrich — their identity.

The more mature, and most especially the world-weary, however, may do well to imbibe, or at least be reminded of, some words of wisdom both ancient and modern to be found here.

The Revd Jennie Hogan is a psychotherapist. She is the author of
This Is My Body: A story of sickness and health (Canterbury Press, 2017).

Hold On Let Go: How to find your life
Malcolm Doney and Martin Wroe
Wild Goose Publications £10.99
Church Times Bookshop £9.89

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