Remarkable Changes
Jane Seymour
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Buy *Remarkable Changes: Turning Life's Challenges into Opportunities* online

Remarkable Changes: More Than 20 Inspiring Stories -- Turning Life's Challenges into Opportunities
Jane Seymour
Regan Books
240 pages
April 2003
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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The title of the book is Remarkable Changes: More Than 20 Inspiring Stories: Turning Life's Challenges into Opportunities. For readers who think Remarkable Changes is primarily about those twenty inspiring stories, the title is slightly misleading. Jane Seymour, best-known from the Doctor Quinn: Medicine Woman series on television, has written a story primarily about herself and the spiritual truths she learned while encountering challenges. The "inspiring stories" are sprinkled throughout as examples of people who have inspired Seymour and who share her wisdom.

Inspirational books written by celebrities will either turn readers off or inspire them. On the one hand, most serious book readers get their insights from more "degreed" inspirational and self-help authors. They can only imagine that the celebrity's turn at inspiring others will be derivative at best, and self-indulgent and arrogant at worst. For instance, why read a book by an actress if one has a book by Dr. Phil, Norman Vincent Peale, or M. Scott Peck close at hand? On the other hand, a celebrity's name carries a certain fame and familiarity. Readers who would never pick up a self-help book might do so if they are fans of the celebrities.

Jane Seymour was born and reared in a family that valued science, volunteerism, the arts and education. Memoirs generally contain what the author believes to be important. The reader gets the feeling that Seymour's book stems from her past family values, some hard-earned truths, self-indulgence and from a kind of celebrity noblesse oblige that encourages her to help others in their struggles. This kind of memoir can be either very revealing or very offensive. How, then, is Seymour to discuss her journey and triumphs without sounding self-indulgent, whiny or arrogant? Very carefully. Although she has had several fairly normal challenges in an extra-ordinary life, Seymour writes as if those challenges were quite extra-ordinary, indeed.

Sometimes she manages to barely cross the shoals of self-indulgence. When she informs her readers that she was too young for her first marriage to David Attenborough, she risks a groan. There really is nothing new or particularly deep about this. And it has the stale smell of self-rationalization. By the time Seymour discusses the break-up of her second marriage ("Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder"), she comes perilously close to sounding like a victim. But a victim of what? The obvious answer: a victim of fame, ambition and that catch-all word -- life. And this is where, although the book is written in a friendly conversational style, Seymour might lose some readers. Celebrities are not like you and I; their troubles are not entirely average. On the one hand, readers want to see their humanity, and honesty is required. Call it an American flaw, but readers of memoirs like balance. An author who blames innocence, ignorance and "life" all the time is going to turn people off. In Seymour's book, stuff just seems to happen to her, and many readers will find themselves resisting any kind of commiseration.

Interwoven among the events of Seymour's life are little anecdotes about other folks who faced challenges and overcame them with their positive attitudes, people whom many readers will identify with. These overcomers, whose lives are raced through, are the saving grace of the book, which is divided into chapters that are further divided into self-help spiritual truths. The little maxims might seem like fonts of wisdom to some readers and glib little truths to others. But hearing about George's life in foster homes, for instance, or Deborah's battle with diabetes-induced vision loss or Corinna's breast cancer, helps Remarkable Changes rise a little above the average but not too far above the typical celebrity memoir.

© 2003 by Carole McDonnell for Curled Up With a Good Book

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