Short Take: The December Project – Sara Davidson

Based on a series of interviews between journalist Davidson and Jewish Renewal leader and rabbi, Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, it’s impossible to avoid a comp to Tuesdays with Morrie. But PW’s review points out how this book carves out its own distinguished and useful territory.

Besides touching on topics like aging well, facing mortality, and dying, Davidson provides a biographical sketch of Schachter-Shalomi—from his narrow escape from the Holocaust through the influence of the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe on his life and thought to his encounters with such influential non-Jewish figures as the Catholic monk Thomas Merton…. Fortunately, Davidson and Schachter-Shalomi don’t elide the most difficult aspects of aging, including physical pain and memory loss (a topic close to Davidson, whose mother suffers from Alzheimer’s). Davidson ends with 12 exercises—from taking a ‘gratitude walk’ to feeling free to ‘kvetch to God’—designed to help readers achieve a Zalman-like, hard-earned equanimity in the last stage of their lives. For boomers who wish to devote serious attention to questions of meaning as they experience ineluctable aging, this book of intense, personal conversations leavened with profound insights is an excellent place to begin.”
Publishers Weekly

The December Project should be required reading for everyone over 50, but anyone who gets a head start on facing mortality by joining this project is in for a surprise: there is as much laughter, healing, and deep peace in these pages as sober reflection on the limits of being human. Above all, this book is a testament to the rich rewards of sustained conversation between fearless friends about what really matters in this life.”
— Barbara Brown Taylor, author of Leaving Church

The December Project: An Extraordinary Rabbi and a Skeptical Seeker Confront Life’s Greatest Mystery (9780062281746) by Sara Davidson. $25.99 hardcover. 3/25/14 on sale.