Review: Arms Wide Open

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A Must Read Memoir – Living in the 60’s and 70’s were turbulent times. Imagine living in cabin without any electricity, devoid of many modern conveniences with a young child and your first life partner.

Imagine being happy. Take a trip back to that time period along with author Patsy Harmon as she shares her life with the reader, takes us on a career and life journey a time when Woodstock came about, hippies were prominent, the music controversial, the times unsettling and the era coming alive with change. Her life partner Stacy and her son Mica set the stage for the events that happen at the start of this book living in this rustic cabin, very few modern conveniences and describing their life together before she decides to move on. Leaving Mica with Stacy was a life altering decision the reasons why would become clear as I continue my review of Arms Wide Open by author Patsy Harman.

Living on a commune and hoping that their members would join her and stay living off the land was her hope. But, Patricia becomes restless and although her foal was to create and set up birthing classes for other hippie mothers but the weather impaired her goals and the way to the commune impassable and a life altering decision was made. Feeling like her life was devoid of something and the lack of progress in shat she hopes to do, Patricia left her son and Stacy.

Enlightening the reader by relating her teaching experiences in the community room of the library we begin to understand her passion for helping women with natural childbirth. Mica and Stacy get seriously ill before she leaves and getting help proves difficult. Making friends, learning how to use the resources on the earth is paramount to her and her friends. Many moral issues are brought to light in this book including their feelings about abortion and the use of medications to alleviate pain. Then the harsh realization of her life hits and after many years of trying to stay and live her life, she leaves ending the memoir from the Red Journal.

Next, we learn of the next part of her journey from the Green Journal during the years of 1977-1978 where we meet Tom and we learn about their traveling to many places, the different families they meet and the birth of their first two children and Mica and Stacy come to live with them too.

Old fashioned medical attention, even house calls and living a rustic life, Patricia shares the hardships, triumphs, her courage, and her inner most thoughts as she struggles to find her own peace and serenity in life. Sometimes all the love and support cannot fill a void in her life when you need personal fulfillment. The chapter headings take us through many seasons, times in her life and forewarn the reader of impending crisis, blessings and joys.

Traveling to many places to help mothers give birth, was exhilarating and frustrating. Betrayals of friends who leave her, feelings of abandonment and career decisions are brought to light during these years. Tom is her support and introduces Pat to the idea of becoming an LPN and finally an RN. Working for Community Action would prove wonderful for both of them. Becoming a midwife and opening her own birthing center paramount to both her and Tom.

Moving forward 20 years to 2008-2009 we now learn the rest from the Silver Journal. Take the journey along with our author, Tom, Mica, Stacy, her family, friends and those who enriched her life along the way. Tom’s frustrations, inner torment, struggles with his practice and wear and tear on their marriage all come front and center. The end result and the ending will surprise the reader. The final chapters will tell what they finally decided to do, where they wind up and what happens to each of their children and their separate journeys.

As the book closes and Pat reflects on their life and feels that she no longer has the answers to the world anymore it is Tom that pushes her and encourages her to go ahead and move to the next level and realizes that change only happens when you make it happen yourself.

Many people growing up during the time period she explores and tells us about did not understand the hippie movement, nor what they were trying to do. Their pacifist ways, their enduring the criticism of those that did not understand their way of life, their commune family values and the way their children were reared are all brought to light in this outstanding memoir.

Arms Wide Open: Pat and Tom will illuminate that as you read the final pages and understand the true meaning of this title as she certainly does open both her heart and arms to the world every time she helps a mother give birth, teaches birthing classes and shares her thoughts with all of us.

As with every book I read I do not want to give away everything or tell the reader all that she experienced as I think you need to read about her life, the different crisis and inner struggles she and Tom faced. The many times that some children did not survive. The many joys of those that she and Tom brought into this world. The estrangement she felt to some of her friends and even her family. This is one book that you when you pick it up you won’t be able to put it down until you read the entire memoir.

Thank you so much for asking me to read this book.

Author: Patsy Harman
Fran Lewis: reviewer

1 Comment
  1. Paula Boer says

    Having made a ‘tree change’ in my life from city consultant to (almost) self-sufficient landowner and wildlife custodian, I can relate to many of the feelings expressed by this author. Water, power, food, even sewerage, must all be managed by my husband and myself, not government or local services. It’s a great feeling despite a steep learning curve, and makes one appreciate the genuinely good things in life – health, love, friends, nature.

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