Review: ‘Happy women live better’ by Valorie Burton

 

2013

Harvest House Publishers

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America’s ‘Happiness Queen’ Valorie Burton wants to start a conversation between women about why they aren’t happy and provides thirteen ‘happiness triggers’. Ms Burton is a professional counsellor I understand, from this book, and has made a career of helping others find happiness; so just the person to write this sort of book. I have a review copy, which is incomplete, so I shall confine my comments to structure and available content. I would have liked to have seen the contents of the projected appendices and conclusion; I’m sure they would have been very interesting.

 

The book was laid out in a very logical fashion, and the content was organised well. Ideas were clearly expressed and explained. The author made some very good points about women’s expectations, and social expectations of women – equally important – and her ideas, such as being more financially savvy, and being aware of the social pressures placed on women to conform to the ‘having it all’ stereotype, would benefit women’s happiness.

Unfortunately, there were a few negatives sides to this book, starting with the least irritating from my point of view: basic spelling errors which I expect would be resolved in the final stages of editing.

My next two are not so easily resolved since they are used to support Ms Burton’s points almost entirely. The author made statements claiming there was scientific evidence for biological imperatives causing certain attitudes or behaviour – such as men feeling they should be the ones who financially support a family and protect unmarried female family members, and that women are naturally more worried and want to be cared for – without providing citations for these claims or discussing alternative causes such as, oh I don’t know, social and cultural norms? That she later goes on to give examples of conversations with women who have told her they were brought up to expect men to ‘cover’ them and were unhappy because they weren’t, and goes on to discuss how women’s expectations cause unhappiness. This makes a mockery of her ‘biological imperative’ argument. Unless you can back up a claim with evidence be very careful of making that claim.

I also found her repeated biblical quotations pointless; if you can’t make your argument without resorting to ‘because God said so’ you have no argument. I understand that Ms Burton is a woman of faith and that the book is aimed at the Christian market, but to try ramming it down the readers throats is disingenuous at best and insulting at worse. None of her points or ‘happiness triggers’ required biblical back-up – they’re common sense suggestion that sometimes we need to be reminded of – and yet she feels it necessary to quote scripture left, right and centre. I’m sure this book will be well received in certain sections of society in the US, but the rest of the world might be put off by her attitude.

Overall I came away from this book agreeing with her argument but lamenting her scientific ignorance and religious bullying – I felt like she was saying a woman can only be happy if she is a good Christian woman because ‘God’ will support you through everything. Any useful points she made about increasing happiness by examining our attitudes and understanding social pressure are obscured by religion and dogma – political and religious. I was very disappointed.

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