In his long and distinguished career, Irvin D. Yalom has pressed his patients and readers to grapple with life’s two greatest challenges: that we all must die, and that each of us is responsible for leading a life worth living.
In Creatures of a Day, he and his patients confront the difficulty of meeting these challenges. Yalom not only gives us an enthralling glimpse into his patients’ desires and motivations, but also tells his own story as he struggles to reconcile his emotional life with the demands placed on him, and reckons with his own life’s inevitable end.
Creatures of a Day shows that the process of psychotherapy can create some of the most engrossing human dramas imaginable. It provides an intelligent, compassionate, and yet unflinching look at the human soul and all the pain, confusion, and hope that go with it. Suffused with humour, great artistry, and a profound humanity, Creatures of a Day lays bare the necessary task we each face, each day, to make our own lives meaningful.
Novelist and psychiatrist Yalom (The Spinoza Problem) offers 10 tales from his clients that illuminate the gifts of psychotherapy, particularly the hopeful lessons one can glean from it in the context of aging and death. He steers away from the riddle-like tales of strange human behavior found in comparable books like Stephen Grosz's The Examined Life, and instead lingers on his patients and his reactions to them. The title, drawn from Marcus Aurelius, hints at the book's primary concern, which is mortality. Ellie struggles with terminal cancer and wants to be a "pioneer of dying." Rick, a successful businessman, enjoys a luxurious existence in a retirement community that only underlines the impending end of his life. Despite this focus on death, Yalom also has genuinely inspiring insights to share about the value of therapy, such as his certainty "that if I can create a genuine and caring environment, my patients will find the help they need, often in marvelous ways." The stories Yalom offers of his patients' failures and triumphs are frequently moving and will invoke the reader's empathy.