Open Your Heart (Books for Transformation Book 3)
Ruth Cherry, PhD
Reviewed by: Allison Walker, Pacific Book Review
How often do we find ourselves wishing for guidance? How many times have we stood at a crossroad and thought, “Good God, what am I doing wrong?” This is exactly the experience Annie goes through as the main character of the metaphysical fiction novel Open Your Heart, by author Ruth Cherry, PhD. The old trope of the successful but unfulfilled career woman, Annie is a straight-backed psychotherapist who owns her own practice. She is unmarried, childless and survives primarily on peanut butter. But unlike the rom-com stereotype, Annie’s journey won’t be solved by a lover or a baby. Annie needs to find peace within herself. In fact, Annie’s process in deeply personal. Although she accepts help from others, Annie’s journey is Annie’s alone to make.
Throughout the story, Annie has a number of experiences which force her to grow spiritually and intellectually. First, many of her therapy clients cancel. Annie is forced to have “free time,” and to release her fearful and iron grip on her control. As Annie learns to spend her time in leisure, she is able to relax her need to feel constantly in control of the events around her. Maybe it’s this which leads her to her next big milestone: flying. Not literally, but paragliding, at which point Annie can finally say, “I can feel something in me release and dissipate. Something stiff that helped me walk through the world appropriately and look professional, but something artificial and that I don’t need here.”
Annie is a woman on a mission of self-rediscovery. Although at the earlier point in the book she has yet to articulate the nature of her restlessness, Annie realizes she has felt helpless and is completely dissatisfied with what she has made of her life. She is content only in the superficial sense of having made for herself the material possessions and career she desired in her youth; namely, a condo and a financially stable psychotherapy self-practice. Yet, emotionally, Annie is unfulfilled. At first, Annie is resistant to this knowledge and rebukes the first of her spirit guides, Hannah, who appears to help her. They argue, literally since Hannah appears to Annie as a physical manifestation, until at last Annie accepts Hannah’s guidance.
Any change is difficult, and a change of the self can be perceived as a personal affront. What do you mean I’m not good enough? Annie must first come to realize her own unhappiness, then accept the help of others as genuine and trust their guidance. In fact, Hannah’s first advice reflects what Annie has been telling her psychotherapy clients for years but hasn’t been able to see for herself: “that if we want to know what we really choose and not what we say we choose, we should look around us.” Guides appear to Annie in the forms of Hannah, a disgruntled yet wise woman; Helen, who Annie recognizes as her Controller; Theresa, who represents the passion she has repressed for all of her adult life; Maggie, the artistic self who is in love with being alive; Alex, with whom she practices partnership; and Robbie, a childlike mentor whom she nurtures like her reluctant but rapidly growing love of cooking.
Open Your Heart is incredibly emotional and touches so deeply into the heart of Annie that it’s nearly impossible to remember this is a work of fiction. Yet, don’t we all struggle with identity? Don’t we all question the meaning of our life? Perhaps the reason Open Your Heart feels so familiar is because it is.