The Making of Us by Sheridan Voysey
Not a self-help manual of answers, but a window which can increase self-understanding
The Making of Us - Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned
By Sheridan Voysey
W Publishing Company (Thomas Nelson), Nashville, Tennessee,
Reviewed by Alec Gilmore
When, after countless attempts to start a family, Sheridan and his wife (Merryn) reached the point where it was clear the dream was never going to be realised, they took a positive decision to pack up (in Australia) and start a new life somewhere else. With no hope of motherhood Merry had long had a yen for an academic life, so Oxford was an obvious choice. For Sheridan it was different. With a considerable reputation as writer and broadcaster he knew that was something you could not transfer to the UK overnight, but after the fashion of Ruth and Naomi it seemed worth a shot. The Making of Us is some (and only some) of the fruit.
First, it is not a book about childlessness; it is about that moment when you suddenly feel as if all your life and dreams have collapsed, leaving you wondering where you are, who you are and what you were. Browning’s poem, ‘The Last Ride Together’ might be an alternative starting point. Second, nor is it about moving house, the therapy that may come from writing a book or going on a pilgrimage, all of which Sheridan did, though not intentionally as therapy.
The quality of Sheridan’s writing is what you would expect from a pro, but what fascinated me more was his modus operandi — a day-to-day (almost hour-by-hour) account of a twelve day pilgrimage, from Holy Island of Lindisfarne to Durham, in the steps of St Cuthbert — what he sees, does, thinks, the people he runs up against and the conversations he shares with a fellow-Australian traveller. Some of it is purely descriptive, some chatter, some deep, but after twelve days, journeying together, sharing ideas, convictions and and stories of many they have come across (not all on this journey) who have faced a life crisis and moved on, Sheridan’s story reflects a thoroughly positive approach to life.
If at the end you find yourself wondering ‘what next, or what about Merryn?’ you are asking the wrong questions. This is neither a sermon nor a solution, neither a ‘who dun it’ nor a self-help manual of answers. It is a window which can increase self-understanding and in a time of crisis give a nudge to go through that door.
By a strange coincidence, on the day that I started reading it the London Evening Standard carried a cartoon (Monday Motivation) — a young woman, confronted by a closed door, exclaiming ‘Open Sesame’, with the caption, ‘No matter how scared you are about closing one door of your life, when you do, it immediately signifies to the universe that you’re ready for a whole world of other doors to open up to you.' Just about says it all, I thought.
Alec Gilmore is a Baptist minister