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So Long Status QuoI should state from the outset that I am not in the target demographic for Susy Flory’s So Long Status Quo. A quick glance at the back cover reveals who this book is aimed at and where it’s supposed to be shelved:

Religion/Christian Life/Women’s Issues

I won’t say that I don’t fall under one or more of the above listed categories, but I will say that, outside of someone sending the book to me directly, it’s unlikely that, were I to find myself wandering the aisles of a Christian bookstore, I would have stumbled anywhere near Flory’s book. And that, besides being an indication that target demographics are a poor method for choosing where books should or shouldn’t be shelved, or behind which type of bookstore doors a new piece of writing should be ensconced, is a very sad fact. Flory’s book deserves to reach well beyond the double-X chromosome set or the “inspirational” book rack at your local grocery store.

Before I begin though, a few important notes, lest you discover these facts on your own, in some distant future, however unlikely the chance, and therefore disregard any or everything I’m about to say:

  1. I know Susy Flory.
  2. I consider her a friend.
  3. She went to school with one of my brothers.
  4. She is the one who sent me a copy of this book for review.
  5. She and I have spoken about writing and the business of writing.
  6. It is likely that she has seen me as Joe, the boy cheerleader, in a high school production of Cheaper By The Dozen. A play in which I wore a “William Tell tie,” jumped 5 feet in the air while doing splits, and yelled, “A hoo ra ray and a tiger for Montclair High.”

I’ve done my best to let none of these facts color my opinion or the honesty of this review, although point 6 could easily be viewed as a reason for blackmail.

’nuff said. On to the review…

So Long Status Quo opens with a chapter titled Addicted to Comfort, and reveals where it is that Susy Flory hopes to take you as she pulls back the curtain on the life she was living and the life that she wanted to be living. The first several paragraphs lay out a love story of sorts. Or, if not a love story, a happy infatuation… with a couch. An infatuation that Flory finds is beginning to wane.

Says Flory:

My secure couch cocoon was really a picture of what I had let my life become. Lethargic, sleepy, with a love for security and for comfort, I lived for self. I avoided suffering at all costs. I didn’t want to ever do anything uncomfortable. I think I was addicted to comfort.

Not satisfied to brew another cup of tea and find a better pillow, Flory sets off on a personal journey designed to unite her life with the idealism, sacrifice, focus, and purpose of nine great women. Women both well known and nearly unknown. Women as different as Rosie the Riveter and Queen Elizabeth I, as eloquent as Harriet Tubman and Jane Austen, as simple as Mother Theresa and Eleanor Roosevelt. Women whose lives influenced everyone and everything around them. Women who changed the world.

Flory’s style is easy, familiar, and not unlike writers like Donald Miller who are willing to expose some of themselves in an honest and truthful fashion in order to shed light on a much broader truth. Each chapter in So Long is broken into three sections, the first is a kind of self-assessment that Flory makes, where she reveals her own shortcomings and the ways she’s let her life slip into a good, but unremarkable “status quo.” The second introduces her muse, giving you some historical background and then revealing what it is about her muse that diverges from Flory’s own life. The third section, to steal a line from Shawn Colvin, is where Flory makes “a few small repairs.” It’s where Flory applies, and by extension you apply, what she’s learned about her muse, using it as a guide for change in her own life.

After writing about Eleanor Roosevelt who, once FDR became president, began taking advantage of her station and power to, “…speak out on civil rights, arguing that democracy was not complete until both poverty and prejudice were conquered,” Flory says that she,

…wanted to be like Eleanor and go someplace horrible, where people were suffering. I wanted to see for myself and try to help however I could. I wanted to pay the world back for my selfishness, to help children in need, and try to blot out my earlier ignorance and indifference. I wanted work to do and no time to think about myself. I wanted to live out compassion.

It’s places like these, the places where Flory reveals her weaknesses, steps out of her own comfortable world and steps into another, that So Long Status Quo really sings. It’s also where you’ll begin to look at your own life in the light of the women that Flory has chosen to follow.

The beauty of Susy Flory’s writing is that it never comes off as a guilt-tripping, finger-pointing, “you-can-do-better-than-that” diatribe. Flory’s honesty about her own life and her own weaknesses make it easy for you to own up to your own shortcomings. You laugh about out how cluttered her life is only to realize that your own isn’t exactly “white glove” clean. You’re inspired by the women she’s chosen because, well, they’re almost other-worldly and yet quite human. You also see that it’s possible to get off of your own comfy couch because Susy has done the same.

If I have any disappointment at all with So Long Status Quo it’s that the book is less organic and therefore a little less personal than I wanted it to be. For me, this is largely due to the three-part style of the chapters, which I can only assume make it easier to extract different bits for Women’s Conference sessions and reader’s groups and may also make it easier for the reader to break off the Flory bits and insert themselves into the narrative. But for me that three-part style felt too boxy. And, instead of giving me an intimate sense of discovery as I lived along with Flory, I began feeling like I knew what was coming next.

In the end, my distraction with the chapters didn’t keep me from the seeing the deeper story here. Flory proves that these women still have the power to change people. They changed Flory and, if given the chance, Susy Flory’s So Long Status Quo will help them to change you.

Updated on 1/26/10 to fix an incorrect chromosomal reference. And to think that I was once a biology major.