Book Review: The Undiscovered Country by Diane Meyer Lowman

The Undiscovered Country: Seeing Myself Through Shakespeare’s Eyes by Diane Meyer Lowman

What if you woke up one day to realise that most of your life has passed you by while you were trying to please others? What if you gambled all your potential away seeking other people’s validation but ended up with neither?

The Undiscovered country by Diane Meyer Lowman

A middle-aged woman stumbles upon these questions when her dying mother’s last words turn out to be, “I wish you would start your life.” After perfectly executing the roles of a good daughter, wife, and mother, Diane finds herself suddenly free. What follows shortly after is the gruesome realisation that she wasted all her potential. Now that she doesn’t have to carry anybody else’s expectations but her own, she decides to rekindle her love for literature and Shakespeare. The plot of “The Undiscovered Country” revolves around how she rediscovers herself by fulfilling the dreams she once had to give up while unlearning the trauma from the past.

Lowman has a compelling way of describing womanhood and motherhood, which feels personal and delicate. She successfully revisits the struggles of unlearning orthodox practices that are passed down as family heirlooms. She has a deeply empathetic approach towards the women in her family who were victims of patriarchy, which is very refreshing to see. The internal tug-of-war between her independence and motherly instincts makes for an interesting conflict.

Another noteworthy aspect is Lowman’s skill in addressing patriarchy, immigrant identity, familial expectations, anxiety, and self-doubt. Diane’s father had unattainable standards, “I could get five As and a B+ on a report card, and we’d spend an hour discussing the disgraceful B” remembers Diane. We find out that even though she was a talented student, her father constantly belittled her, which took a toll on her confidence. The reader helplessly witnesses her succumb to the pressure and live a life full of “what-ifs.”

Each character in the book serves a purpose. The protagonist and her mother showcase a bittersweet relationship, and their dynamic is complex but endearing. The father and the ex-husband are different versions of each other. The other friends Diane comes across in university seem natural and not unnecessary. Every character has a specific role at the time they’re introduced, and no interaction seems forced. They all fit perfectly to elevate the overall theme of the book.

The central theme is one of self-reflection and development. The author strives to sharpen her skills at an age when most people are contemplating retirement plans. The display of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity is inspiring. Additionally, she doesn’t shy away from acknowledging anxiety and its effects on her. The reader sees her struggling alone amidst her loved ones. Lowman’s obsession with Shakespeare contributes to some very informative passages. The motivation she instils with her words is truly remarkable. However, Lowman never fully explains the root of this obsession with Shakespeare and his work. The reader constantly reads about Shakespeare’s effect on Lowman’s journey (“I went beyond the absurd surface of the Bardolatry to the sublime interior of his world”), but there aren’t many concrete examples.

Furthermore, the writing is quite easy to grasp. The pacing of the first half is rather slow, making it challenging for the reader to get started, but the narration picks up the pace in the second half. Readers are often switched between past and present continuously before they can fully develop empathy towards the individual characters. Also, the events are scattered throughout the entire length of the book, which can sometimes make it hard to keep track of the plot progression.

A commendable aspect that sets this book apart is the honesty with which Lowman explores her failures. Unlike some other authors who completely disregard the concept of mental health, Lowman sheds light on the conversation, and reading the text feels like a warm hug. The way Lowman depicts self-doubt is raw; it’s rather saddening to witness her constantly feeling the need to please her father, even when he is gone, still trying to attain a standard she resents. The way Lowman portrays imposter syndrome strikes a chord with the reader as it is a universal feeling. She focuses on these experiences and executes each one. All the above-mentioned factors have satisfactory payoffs, and none of them are mentioned for the sake of being relatable.

This book fills one with hope that it is never too late to pursue what they want. Lowman’s exploration of womanhood, motherhood, and the weight of familial expectations offers a nuanced and heartfelt portrayal. Despite occasional pacing issues and scattered events, ‘The Undiscovered Country’ is remarkable in its powerful attempt at an honest and raw depiction of personal growth. This book has the potential to resonate with almost anyone who is going through a change and redefining themselves, which is a fairly common experience. Overall ‘The Undiscovered Country’ is a compelling read that merits your attention.

Explore personal growth and unearthing one’s true self in Diane Meyer Lowman’s ‘The Undiscovered Country’ on Amazon. Don’t miss this compelling and relatable journey.

Also, read Diane Meyer Lowman’s insightful interview on her latest book.

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