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Reviewed Publisher: 
Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts. 156 pp. ISBN: 1-58761-203-8.
Reviewed Title: 
9 Journeys Home (2003)
Reviewed Author: 
Publication Date: 
May, 2004
Starting Page: 
Page Count: 

Bob Mandel is a skilled teacher and personal growth trainer. Very early in his career, he saw the connection between pre- and perinatal experience and later personality development, and he has been an enthusiastic supporter of APPPAH since its inception. His latest book, 9 Journeys Home, draws on Mandel's wealth of knowledge gained working with groups and individuals both in the United States and throughout the world. The book is well organized, clearly written, and richly layered. It is divided into nine parts, each describing one particular aspect of the process of self-reclamation and discovery.

Mandel has written of nine characteristics that he sees as essential for the development of a healthy sense of self-esteem. Examples of these characteristics include self-acceptance, developing a positive self-image, giving, and receiving support. He illustrates each of these aspects with case studies drawn from his extensive experience. He presents many moving examples of clients' working through various false beliefs that have prevented them from developing and living fuller lives. Many of these beliefs stem from negative birth or pre-birth experiences.

One of the journeys the author describes is called "The Search for Inner Sanctum," in which Mandel explains his sense of the divine and the importance of spiritual connection. He discusses the differences between mystical experience and organized religion, and the importance of discovering the divine within oneself.

Another journey shows how essential it is to recognize the sacred outside of ourselves as well as within. This chapter is especially relevant today, when it can be tempting to divide the world into good and evil, into "us" versus "them."

His observations about the effects that birth and in utero conditions have had on some of his clients will be of particular interest to readers of JOPPPAH. For example, he describes the effect of a mother's depression on her unborn child, how unfinished mourning for a miscarriage can affect the next child in utero, and how the rough handling of a newborn can impede his or her later ability to accept support when needed. The author writes passionately about the intelligence of young children, and the importance of respecting that intelligence.

The book has a fine sense of balance, rooted in the author's impressive knowledge of the human psyche. He knows that there is no one right way that suits every individual, and he is careful to encourage each reader to find and trust their own individual truth. Every chapter includes a helpful meditation and a gentle caution. "The Pitfall" alerts us to the dangers that lie ahead when we lose perspective and go too far in a particular direction.

Artfully woven into the book are profound philosophical questions concerning the nature of God, the existence of evil, and the role of suffering. Many examples attest to the healing aspect of love, both loving and being loved. Mandel clarifies often misunderstood concepts such as guilt and compassion, service and servitude, obligation and charity. There is a moving anecdote of an obstetrician's sudden insight, during a forceps delivery. This incident forever changed him and his practice of obstetrics. The author's respect for his clients and their different needs is apparent throughout.

The book is sprinkled with the insights and observations of children. Many are very funny, especially a conversation between Mandel and his grandson about growing up. Others are deeply touching, such as the little girl who whispered to her newly born sister, "Please tell me about God. I've almost forgotten."

The final chapter "Hold Your Children" begins with the tale of a king who wanted to know what language children would speak if no one talked to them. Mandel weaves this tragic story into an impassioned plea to hold, love, and listen to our children.