Book Review: Navigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me by Margaux Bergen

Navigating Life by Margaux BergenNavigating Life: Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me
Author: Margaux Bergen
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Format: Ebook
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9780698182202
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Parenting

Mary’s Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
Review copy from NetGalley


“Margaux Bergen began writing this book when her daughter Charlotte turned nine and gave it to her right after graduation from high school, when she was setting off for her first day of college. ‘I am not writing this to groom or guide you to professional or academic success,’ she writes. ‘My goal is rather to give you tools that might help you engage with the world and flourish. . . . Think of this as a kind of developing bath-time wisdom.'”

Synopsis portion taken from Goodreads


As a late 20-something, I like reading about life advice from other peoples’ experiences and taking them as I find relates to my life experiences or where I am emotionally in the grand scheme of existence. So when I stumbled on this book’s synopsis via Goodreads and NetGalley, I thought it would be right up my alley. While I’m no longer considered a “recent grad,” this would be great for someone who is still figuring how this whole adulthood thing works. (I have to invest my Netflix time to match socks and decipher medical insurance claims? Ugh.)

I really enjoyed the premise of this book: having started writing this book when her oldest daughter turned nine to give to her after graduating high school and before she sets off to college abroad, a mother shares life lessons she’s learned over the last 20 years as a college graduate herself through motherhood.

Sounds great, right?

The lessons are divided into eight sections: learning, conversation, work, blood greed, home, relationships, my way, your way. Although I’m not entirely sure if there are eight lessons to be learned. Perhaps there are and I’m wrong, but the middle section—work, blood greed, and home—didn’t interest me much. Rather, I was confused why I was being taken on a roller-coaster of stories regarding her employments, remarriages or relocations, and this weird disdain for her father who’s a sociopath or addict (or both). These sections trudged on and almost had me giving up.

But today is not that day.

Margaux did offer some advice and lessons throughout the book that I thought were great from the introduction:

“First, if you are to go into life with someone—a child, a partner, a colleague—know this: you can’t change them. Learn this quickly and learn it well and embrace it.”
“Second, cede your moral judgement to no one. Ever.”
“Last, be kind.”

And just a few snippets throughout the book that stood out to me:

“Never underestimate the value of a good conversation. […] That is one of the first rules of adult life.”


“Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate. If anything, that is when it begins in earnest.”


“Knowing yourself is the gift; it will allow you to respond, rather than react, to people and events.” Then finally:
“Whatever you choose to go after in life, don’t expect things to come easily and to always go your way. Failure is about unmet expectations: your own, others, society’s. It is not getting the outcome you wanted.”

Of course, accompanied with these wonderful quotes are anecdotes from Bergen’s life before and after children. Some were poignantly related to the quotes, others not so much. Again, her stories about all the different jobs she had, while I’m sure it relates to the idea of not being married to the idea of one job or job role for the rest of your life, was difficult to care about.

Despite all this, would I read this book again, recommend it to anyone, or give it as a gift? Unfortunately, no.

Any life advice you wish you had after high school or college before you embarked on the “real world” (no MTV-related pun intended)? Is “Real World” even still on TV?

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