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Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,798 ratings  ·  87 reviews
At last, this is your story. You'll recognize yourself, your friends, and your loves. You'll see how to use each life crisis as an opportunity for creative change -- to grow to your full potential. Gail Sheehy's brilliant road map of adult life shows the inevitable personality and sexual changes we go through in our 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond. The Trying 20s -- The safety o ...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published January 10th 2006 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 1976)
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3.89  · 
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 ·  1,798 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Aug 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was written in the 1970's, and helped me through a couple of difficult passages in my life. I was young then, and I'm not young now (68), but it's just possible that I might pick it up and read it again. It certainly helped me survive a couple of personal crises in my life...
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Passages by Gail Sheehy is a book that I saw lying around the house a lot when I was a kid. Since I am writing a memoir about my mom, I thought I'd read some of her favorite books. Turns out to be perfect timing. It's about the various phases of life leading up to the mid-life crisis. According to Sheehy, when we are young adults, many of us rush into choosing a role so that we can "get on" with life. This may entail denying parts of ourselves in order to better conform to that role, whether it' ...more
Kaethe Douglas
Jul 09, 2014 rated it liked it
See, this is what happens when you hire a bookish babysitter. I can't begin to explain why, at age 14 I thought I should read this instead of, I dunno, watching TV. Yeah, see I didn't go prying around, I'd just grab a book of the family room shelf.

Let's just assume it was a good idea, that some sort of pop wisdom filtered into my head so that now, in middle age, I'm taking life in stride.
Ryan Murdock
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very interesting read. A bit dated given that attitudes have changed since it was written in the early 70's. But still widely applicable, IMO. At least to my generation. Gave some interesting insights into the 40's decade I've somehow slipped into. And brought back a lot of memories as well. I spent a lot of time looking back at the past as I read, and the major turning points and crisis points of my life fit quite accurately into this pattern. But of course I never realized that at the time.
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
A retro pop-psych book that reads like a point of entry into the minds of Betty and Don Draper. The upshot: no matter where you are right now in your identity crisis, unless you are totally inhibited beyond help, ruined by your parents, or poorer than a Westchester socialite, around the age of 50 you will emerge from your crummy chrysalis self-realized, artistic, and jazzed about life.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Middle age provides enough history to see major life events with some perspective. Consideration of the future begins to gain focus.

"Passages" provided a vocabulary and understanding of how we all deal with loss and tragedy. I began to see myself on Sheehy's various steps and reminded me that 1) my feelings were normal and a part of a process and, 2) This too shall pass.

Her book brought rationality to some of the most painful emotions we encounter.

LB 2012
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reference
This is an interesting bit of insight into the "predictable crises" of adult life. Divided in sections by life stages (the trying 20's, the catch 30's, the forlorn 40's) Sheehy tries to help us understand the 'developmental rythms" of life, and how to use that knowledge to reach our full potential. I've read bits & pieces, here & there, and am now reading from it again...

Feb. '08:
Part five: "But I'm Unique"; chpt. 16- Women's Life Patterns.
~Late Baby Superachiever (!?); interesting...

Mar 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
When someone recommended this book to me, I thought that it was just another self-help book, which was full of stereotypes, and pat answers, but to my delight, Sheehy pretty much steered clear of all that. I guess I had never pondered that life is comprised of a series of "losses", which compel us to adapt, and ultimately to grow. I think simply knowing that change will come, is helpful; and this book brings encouragement in facing those inescapable passages of life, where disillusionment can ge ...more
Nov 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: adults over 30
Somewhat outdated, especially the women's issues, but still an invaluable tool in self-examination and growth. Covers the predictible pattern of aging and maturing for men and women, yet resists the stereotyping and type-casting of most books of this type.
Mar 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: life
I learned that the course for life is a ongoing, reflecting process and that each of us chooses the path differently. And that is never too late to change one's course. Her examples of specific people and their choices of paths was very helpful.
Oct 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: humanity
This book belongs on my human interests shelf as one of the many fascinating books I've read regarding people and their emotional selves.

The criticisms I have about the book are few, but they're still criticisms. There were way, way too many (arguably cheesy) metaphors in the author's prose that really took away from what is probably very extensively researched subject matter; it was distracting and took away some of the credibility. I also read a 30th anniversary version that did not revise any
Paula Dembeck
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have read parts of this book earlier in my life but this time I wanted to read it all the way through.

Sheey presents a new understanding of the predictable crisis of adult life, much like the book Erickson had written before on life's early years. The road map shows the inevitable personality and sexual changes we go through in our 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond.

In the trying twenties, we leave the safety of home behind and try on not only the uniforms of life but also possible partners, searching f
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I find myself continually referring to the premises of this book in my life. I really believe that our true age in life is changing through our experiences. As we deal with life's crises we have to regroup our ways, consequently our developmental age regresses until we're able to learn from and push through that passage in our life.
Depending on what we've been through in life and how we've dealt with what we have been through, we can either be well ahead of or well below our chronological age nu
Jennifer Hughes
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: unfinished
I remember seeing this around my house in the '70s, so when I found it on my (recently deceased) mom's bookshelf, I thought I'd read it and maybe get some insight into her at that age. I didn't really find what I was looking for, except for one thing: lots of highlighting up to page 60, then it stops. Yeah, Mom, that's about where I lost interest too.

Gail Sheehy is a journalist, not a trained psychologist, so while she may have some interesting observations on psychology, it seemed that she spen
Fenixbird SandS
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All Ages
Recommended to Fenixbird by: Sociology teacher perhaps?
Author Gail Sheehy shares case studies & insights into barriers to happiness many of us encounter. "Know thyself" & what as an age or generation you expect, your past & present lovers expect, what makes us tick--and I feel good answers to the question, 'Why am I like this?' or 'Why did he/she do that?'" A somewhat lighter link to a current article with related subject:
Feb 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Since I haven't finished reading this book and started it while I was living in the Bahamas, i will tag it as currently reading.

This book is fantastic and really helps to understand both men and women as we head through the different passages that life brings our way. I have found it very insightful and helps me to know that I'm not losing my mind!

Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book opened my eyes, and reassured me. No, I'm not alone in my life crises. Yes, the future is full of promises. I've talked about this book around me and many people recognised themselves, too. Very insightful, well written and documented.
Some references are a bit outdated since the book was written in the 1970s (especially the role of women) but it's a minor inconvenience.
Kathie H
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Let's take all of Sigmund Freud's "work" and use it to line the birdcage. Passages is the reference book to see what's ahead (and behind) for people of every age phase. Loved this book, Sheehy's writing style, fact finding, and case studies. A must-read for every age.
Liz Rogers
Sep 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read. Made me feel better about my worries about life. Apparently the are very common!

Note about this book: it was written in the 1970s. Keep that in mind when you read some of the life histories. But the basic idea of the book still stands for people today.
R.P. Dahlke
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Every woman should read this book! I did at age 35, and have since bought it for every friend who's found herself at a "fork in the road." Incredibly important for all of us who've wondered if we were the only ones in the world going through this trial, this hurt, this challenge.
Apr 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: counselling
This book meant a lot to me because I was reading it when I met a good looking Canadian fresh off the plane. Amazingly, he too was reading the book and we sat till long in the night discussing what it meant to us. He has now been my husband for 29 years!
Paul Iversen
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While it's a bit dated (written in 1976), this road map for life seems to hold up. It predicts the crises I see in my own life and in those around me. It explains their biological, psychological, and cultural causes. It offers acute warnings of wrong turns and dead ends. And it provides examples of paths that led to greater integrity, connection, and well-being. It forced me to look closer at my own fears and desires, but also to find comfort in not knowing how things are going to turn out. It a ...more
Rebecca Waring-Crane
Chosen as a seminal work on a topic that fascinates me, I've labored to complete Sheeny's classic on life transitions. Not because her writing is difficult; no, it is often lyrical. But because her findings are simple and irrefutable, and reading them left me feeling that my own life is a cliche.

We are so predictable. This truth comforts and confounds at the same time.

Written in the early 1970's, some references and examples are decidedly reflections of that time. However, the struggle to free
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good Book. The great part of this book is the amount stories she collected from various people. I think it's great to have so much insight on other peoples lives and to make comparisons of how I've seen these patterns in my own life. Sheehy is clearly a feminist and makes some very notable claims for female and male relations. She has a wonderful way with words that pulls you through the book even if the material is a little thicker. The book was written in the seventies and I think it would be ...more
Aug 18, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this book on the recommendation of one of my colleagues in the late seventies. At the time I was reading nothing but non-fiction. While it had some good points to make, I said to my friend, "I could have written this so much better." She said, "If you can write better than this, why aren't you doing it?" I told her that I really had nothing to say. It was a good twenty years before I set out writing fiction.
Saskia Marijke Niehorster-Cook
This is an educational book, a self help, that taught me I am not alone through the different "Passages" one goes through life and that when we arrive at a certain age, certain crises come down on you and help guide you on the next level in one's life. It was an interesting read if a bit outdated. (514 pgs)
Jan 17, 2009 rated it liked it
I've had this book for decades, but waited until I retired to read it. It was interesting, and written in an easy style. Of course, I would have liked more discussion and examples of folks age 60+. I also have her follow-up book called Pathways, or something like that, that I plan to read. I think it has more examples of people passing through various stages in their life.
Rachel Ayers
Aug 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Although this book was pretty dated (having been published in the 1970s) I found a lot of the argument still valid. I thought of many friends and acquaintances and their stories of internal malaise as I read through each section (age range) of the book. Very good read for anyone who wants to know about adult development.
Jan 10, 2010 rated it liked it
got this for a college class umm, 20 yrs ago, going to read it thoroughly this time, especially since i'm at the mid-life crisis stage!! just finished this and must say even if it is a bit outdated in statistics, it is interesting and makes you think about the different changes you experience in your lifetime.
Levanah Ruthschild
Interesting - and, at least in the early edition, focused
(almost?)exclusively on those following traditional patterns; particularly lacking in alternative views of women's lives.
[One hopes that later editions have addressed and remedied this major shortcoming.:]
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Gail Sheehy is an American writer and lecturer, most notable for her books on life and the life cycle. She is also a contributor to the magazine Vanity Fair.

Her fifth book, Passages, has been called "a road map of adult life". Several of her books continue the theme of passages through life's stages, including menopause and what she calls "Second Adulthood", including Pathfinders, Spirit of Surviv
“It is no longer enough to be competent and promising; a man wants now to be recognized and respected.” 1 likes
“ONE OF THE terrifying aspects of the twenties is the conviction that the choices we make are irrevocable. If we choose a graduate school or join a firm, get married or don’t marry, move to the suburbs or forego travel abroad, decide against children or against a career, we fear in our marrow that we might have to live with that choice forever.” 1 likes
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