Sixty and Beyond

22 December 2021

Sixty and Beyond: Looking Forward – Looking Back
by Alison R. Montgomery
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
Review by Michelle Shaw
$14.95 ISBN 978-1-988783734

When contemplating her retirement, Alison Montgomery’s mother gave her some wise advice: “Travelling, going to the lake, walking the dog and working out are what you do on a vacation. Retirement lasts a long time, and you would be wise to find some form of purposeful work.”

Alison took that to heart. After retiring as a high school art teacher, she decided to study further and become involved in adult education. These days she also continues to enjoy her passion as a landscape artist, plays the flute and piccolo in various community ensembles and enjoys a newfound delight for paddle boarding.

Sixty and Beyond is a reflection of Alison’s life — past, present and future. As she puts it: “The great thing about this stage of life is that you get to reflect on what has worked well for you so far and what has not and decide if you will keep it or throw it.”

This is Alison’s third book. In 2001 her life came to a grinding halt when her son Chris died in a climbing accident. Writing helped her to process her grief. “Choosing what to remember, what to commemorate in writing and what to let go of has been fundamental to my healing.”

Alison’s first book, Finding Christopher: A Journal of Grief, Love & Faith (2010) was a personal journal, penned as a way of moving through the grieving process after Chris’s death. Her second book, Confessions of a Dance Mom, concerned her younger son Jesse. Three years after Chris’s death, Jesse, an exceptional ballet dancer, left home for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School and is now dancing in Europe.

Alison says that, faced with the absence of both children in her daily life, telling their stories and hers by reflecting on remembered experiences helped her to work through overwhelming feelings of fear and loss. “Writing also eventually fostered the beginning of healing by instilling hope within me for my own survival, and ultimately for a future that somehow would still include both sons.” She says she sees the act of telling your story as a path to healing— “and perhaps the healing comes about not so much through what was shared, but through the fact that it was shared at all.”

I find memoirs fascinating. Seeing life from someone else’s perspective is always fascinating, and I appreciated Alison’s deep and hard-earned wisdom. The book is extremely readable and inspiring and is sure to be enjoyed by many readers, especially those who were intrigued and moved by Alison’s first two books.


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