Select one of the keywords
The Society of Timid Souls: or How To Be Brave    by Polly Morland order for
Society of Timid Souls
by Polly Morland
Order:  USA  Can
Crown, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Anita Lock

The Society of Timid Souls is more than an interesting title for a book. There really was such a society back in 1942 in New York. Conceived by Bernard Gabriel, its purpose was to help musicians overcome stage fright. So popular was Gabriel's therapy to help Timid Souls become brave that he broadened the society to include actors, singers, and public speakers. However, within four years time, the society totally dispersed. When Polly Morland first read about this short-lived yet profound bit of history, she became totally enamored with the fact that people back then had come together for the sole purpose of learning how to be brave; therein, her search for understanding bravery began.

Morland investigates every possible nook and cranny of the world of Timid Souls and then categorizes her findings into nine fascinating chapters. Her first chapter begins with the world of soldiers, including interviews with eleven men and women training for Afghanistan. The following chapter explores the world of beasts: from the valor of bull fighting to courageous animals themselves. Morland retells the most amazing stories of bravery, in the third chapter, among those who have had to deal with internal enemies, such as one woman's self-inflicted C-section that saved her baby, and those dealing with crippling illnesses, such as Lou Gehrig's disease.

The fourth and fifth chapters work back to back. The fourth deals with the bravery of those who have dealt with elements that are imposing and extreme, such as earthquakes, roaring winds, mountainous seas, and oceans of fire. The fifth focuses on situations that could be viewed by some as unimposing, yet which are extreme to those who struggle with phobias, like public speaking (in a smaller sense) and being in crowded settings. In chapter six, she revisits the concept of war with more soldier stories (including those from the first chapter who returned from Afghanistan after their training), and also ventures into the civilian side of war as she interviews two survivors of the war in Kosovo.

The last three chapters are vastly different, but, again, are mysteriously connected, as are the preceding chapters, by this same common thread of bravery. In chapter seven, which is appropriately entitled Gravity, Morland covers the gambit of tightrope walkers, urban climbers, jumpers, and even a business that relies on ropes to reach inaccessible areas, and why they are considered brave. The eighth chapter has nothing to do with Fyodor Dostoyevsky; however aptly put, Crime and Punishment delves into the bravery of people on both sides of the law. The final chapter, Tyrannies, explores the moral courage of those who have had (and in some cases, still have) to stand up to powerful entities. In closing, Morland revisits the real Society of Timid Souls. Final pages include a plethora of resources for further reading.

Polly Morland embarked on this project because, knowing full well that she identifies herself as one of the Timid Souls, she like many of us, wants to understand what it takes to be brave. Truly an inspiring book, The Society of Timid Souls: or How To Be Brave offers readers plenty information on which to ruminate for a long time.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews