The Missing Peace by Esther Gendelman and Rochel Stein

The Missing Peace is all about relationships.

Relationships. Can’t live without them, but they sure can be hard to live with sometimes…

the missing piece cover

·       Have you ever had an argument with someone and felt like they just weren’t getting it?

·       Did someone ever suddenly explode at you, and yet you can’t figure out why in the world they were upset?

·       Do you know what it’s like to have a best friend let you down and then have the incident leave a grain of resentment that just won’t go away?

The Missing Peace addresses a wide variety of possible interactions between two people. At some point while reading this book, most people will come across one, and probably more, chapters that will make them wonder when the authors were eavesdropping on them.

We’ve all had relationships — with parents, bosses, spouses, kids, neighbors, mothers-in-law — go a little haywire occasionally. Even in those cases when it seems there’s nothing to do, Esther Gendelman and Rochel Stein think exercising our imaginations a little bit may help a great deal.

Unlike most self-help books, this one reads like a novel. The bulk of the book consists of chapters that present both sides of a situation in which there is conflict between two people. The characters are drawn with such empathy that I often found myself reaching for tissues. And there were some chapters that I wished could have kept going, because I wanted to find out “the end of the story.”

There is no end to the story. 

Even when everyone loves each other and has everyone’s best interests at heart, conflicts and crises arise and we can’t pretend they won’t happen. For example, some of the chapters raise the following hard situations:

·       The married kids, debating whether or not to ask their parents for financial help for the grandkids.

·       The harried mother perplexed by her sixteen year old’s explosion because no one thought to save her a slice of pizza — while she was off having lunch elsewhere.

·       The human resources person who has to lay-off a good employee.

·       The doctor’s wife, trying to protect what little family time her husband has from the real needs of patients in the community

·       The widowed mother whose son-in-law has just found the perfect kollel — half-way round the world.

·       Friends who do favors for each other, but are hurt when they feel the other friend doesn’t respond in the same way in turn.

There are many more chapters. It isn’t hard to see these are situations fraught with emotional challenges.

What makes this book special is how it presents both sides to every dilemma from inside each character’s head.

Because the material is presented in this way, just reading the chapters in Parts I and II, without any resolution to the problems, is already eye-opening. It’s a vibrantly graphic, emotionally gripping way to remind us that there are always two sides to a story. Before flying off the handle next time, or retreating into a wounded sulk, maybe we, too, can exercise our imaginations to see our incident from the other person’s point of view. Doing that for a moment or two can sometimes be enough to turn the flame down on anger or hurt.

Part III, “Reclaiming the Missing Piece,” is where the authors pull it all together by offering a step-by-step approach on how some of the situations could be handled in a way that increases growth and shalom.

They outline what they call “ICARE: Internal Compassion and Relationship Enhancement,” through a series of questions individual can work through as they try to get an emotional handle on a challenging situation. As we can only ever change ourselves, not other people, the questions are designed to lead readers toward greater self-awareness, with a focus on achieving shalom and using challenging experience to develop their middos.

 And for those who are still desperate to know the ending of some of the stories in the chapters, the authors illustrate how the questionnaire works by using it to interview a few of the characters we’ve met in the book. We see them struggling through their issues and trying to figure out what triggered their hurt or anger and why, and how they can develop more compassion, not just for the other person in their conflict, but for themselves, too.

A very creative book, with the potential to help people navigate and grow through their relationships with greater shalom and compassion.

Published by Menucha Publishers.

We received a review copy from the publisher.