In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts

In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Gabor Mate
4.17.12 – 5.2.12

Writing a review for this book feels like pulling teeth. To have to recapture what I spend two weeks absorbing and then to spit it out in a neat package of words feels very… if not daunting, then inappropriate. Inappropriate in the sense that I’m sure I won’t be able to do it justice, but I suppose I can attempt at it anyway.

His book takes two approaches to his subject, addition, and he uses those two approaches simultaneously throughout to create a very complete experience for the reader. He addresses addiction on a very technical side–examining what research has taught us (or is trying to teach us, if we would only listen) about the scenarios leading up to, and then resulting from, addictive behaviors. He has nearly endless footnotes and appendixes to support this aspect of his book, and I was pleased with the research.

The technical side isn’t daunting or unreadable. I know I didn’t retain everything, but it was laid out in a very accessible format, and that was essential for his other approach to the book–the human approach.

He works with “these people”, people who have addictions. He has an addiction himself that he is honest about explaining. He uses the stories of those around him to create a very human face to what society has accepted a very ignorable problem. He lets readers acknowledge their aversion to making eye contact on the street, and without guilting them about their behaviors, he lets readers know that our society’s health depends on our willingness to not ignore those dealing with problems bigger than anything we could dream up.

It’s a very powerful book, and I’ve recommended it already to multiple people in my life. Some, because they work in a similar field or have compatible interests. Others, because the reality check and wake up call in this book is so thoughtfully and accessibly done that I prefer handing them this book, rather than yell at them about needing to face facts.

It’s a wake up call for me, as well, and it’s one I hope I don’t ignore. The wake up call from this book is tenfold–the reader is reminded to not ignore their own problems, as well as to not ignore others’. It’s a personal, individual wake up call that I need to remember, as well as a greater, broader call to action.

I finished reading this book in a park on the water, alone, facing the waves. The serenity and calm from my surroundings helped solidify the message. Deciding to read this book is like deciding to engage in a process that will force you to grow and stretch as a person. It won’t be easy, and it won’t always be fun. I’m pretty sure I cried solidly through at least two chapters. It’s worth it, though.


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