Searching for the Shire

Non-Fiction - Self Help
256 Pages
Reviewed on 12/06/2017
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Author Biography

Florence St. John was born in Brooklyn, New York. After moving to Georgia, she graduated from Kennesaw State University with a Bachelor’s Degree. She now lives in Florida. Other books include, Entangled with a Sociopath and Borderline, the Illusion of Insanity.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Karen Walpole for Readers' Favorite

Searching for the Shire, an autobiography by Florence St. John, tells the story of the author’s many years in dysfunctional and codependent relationships. Florence’s father was an alcoholic and, like many children of alcoholics, she learned at an early age to subjugate her own needs and feelings in order to keep peace in the household. She brought the same lack of self-care and self-esteem to her marriage, so her life became more and more difficult financially and emotionally. Although she had learning difficulties in school, Florence attempts to improve her life with an education. In spite of her success at college, her relationship with her husband continues to deteriorate. Her husband becomes progressively less responsible and they both hit rock bottom. The rest of the book deals with figuring out just why things happened the way they did, and learning about how to take care of her own needs and build healthy relationships.

For anyone who has ever wanted to understand codependency, this is a great book. Rather than reading something clinical on the subject, the reader “lives” the codependent's life through the book. The narrative unfolds naturally and flows well. Reading about the author’s life enlightens the reader, but the message about care of self becomes very clear as the story progresses. I recommend Searching for the Shire by Florence St. John for anyone who suspects they are codependent and anyone with alcoholic family members or friends. Seeing how alcoholism changes the people around the alcoholic helps in understanding codependent people and relationships.

Jack Magnus

Searching for the Shire is a nonfiction autobiographical self-help book written by Florence St. John. The author was at the worst of her preteen angst-ridden stage when her parents moved their family away from the changing demographic that Brooklyn had become and settled in a small suburban town in central Long Island. Florence had been on an academic par with her peers in the city, but suburban educational standards were stricter, and Florence found herself struggling to keep up. Her parents and guidance counselor at school had left her feeling that she was not college material, and failed to really give her any guidance on what to do after high school. After a brief and disastrous marriage, St. John’s initial foray into the working world as a data processor became complicated by the relationship she had suddenly found herself in with her boss. Despite his fatherly warnings to her about on-the-job relationships, he had smoothly seduced her and taken advantage of her trust in him.

Edward, a Vietnam veteran and an old school acquaintance, became her friend, co-conspirator and eventually her husband. She left her beloved Long Island environment to follow him to Texas where he knew he could get work. They would later settle in Georgia, where they raised their two children and built the house of Florence's dreams. But theirs was never the real romantic love she had always dreamed of, and she was increasingly aware of the fact that she needed to seek other avenues beyond her preconceived notion of the white picket fence and the strong and devoted provider.

Florence St. John’s Searching for the Shire takes a hard look at dysfunctional family relationships and the legacy of codependency passed on to those who've grown up under those conditions. The author's story is a compelling one, and her voice rings out with honesty, conviction and occasional ruefulness throughout. I found her drive and determination, as exemplified by her determination to build her dream house and her hard-won college degree in Accounting, to be inspirational indeed, and I found myself sighing as she briefly gives up her hard-won freedom, once again, to partner with Daniel. While quite supportive and understanding of many women's desires to be homemakers, St. John eloquently shows why it wasn't enough for her and discusses how the collapse of the soundest-seeming marriage can leave a woman with no working skills or experience to fend for herself in the outside world. While her memoir indicates that St. John's skills are numerical, her memoir is beautifully written and a joy to read. I hope she considers following this effort with a work of fiction next, as she's a gifted storyteller. Searching for the Shire is most highly recommended.

Grant Leishman

Searching for the Shire by Florence St. John takes us on a journey of self-discovery through one woman’s life. Florence had always felt tolerated, rather than unconditionally loved, as a child and she spent her adult years seeking acceptance and, yes, love, through a series of relationships and/or marriages that it seemed were almost convenient rather than for all the right reasons. Growing up in the '60s and '70s, at a time when women were seeking more from the world, Florence decided to take the route of least resistance, that of marriage and motherhood. This would lead her eventually to the realization that she was co-dependent and always needed others' approval for her own happiness. In time, she will discover that it is okay to say “No” and it is okay to worry about your own personal mental health, rather than to always focus on “fixing up” others.

As someone who has lived a co-dependent relationship in the past, I found Searching for the Shire to be a clarion call to my psyche. Reading Florence St. John’s words and deeds, I experienced many “Aha” moments as I was able to relate to her “need to be needed.” I suspect this issue is felt more intensely by women, but as a man who has experienced these issues, I was very easily able to relate to her thought processes and decision making. At the end of the day, this book can give real hope and a path out of co-dependency for anyone suffering from this. The book is simply a summation of St. John’s life that led her to the point of needing to find an answer to her continual problems. My biggest takes from this story were 1: It’s okay to be alone and 2: How can you expect anyone else to love you unconditionally when you don’t even love yourself? I think this book would prove very useful for those suffering from co-dependency or feelings of inadequacy.