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Review of "All Seasons Pass"

By Martha Manning
Sorin Books, 2000
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D. on Nov 25th 2001
All Seasons Pass

This small book is an unusual work. It starts out with a tale of a mystical experience Manning had during a fever. Sophia is a figure in the Old Testament, and she came to Manning while she was pregnant with a child she lost. The experience is quite drawn out and detailed, and Manning tells it beautifully. One of the lessons Sophia gives her is that all seasons pass.

Manning then devotes the rest of the book with a short history of her own personal history of going through two miscarriages, and she sets out some information about the frequency of miscarriage and the emotions women who have had them often experience. Her main point is that miscarriage can be a terrible loss for women, while often it is treated as a relatively minor problem. The problem has been in some ways made worse with the advent of new technology, which enables us to identify signs of life of the fetus and even generate pictures of it earlier and earlier in the pregnancy. We come to think of the fetus as a child and a person earlier than we might have before we had such technology.

Even though this book is very short, it has a power similar to Manning's memoir of her depression, Undercurrents. Although in her earlier memoir, Manning discussed how her religious belief helped her, All Seasons Pass is a more openly religious or at least spiritual work, especially in its use of her mystical experience. Yet Manning is also clear that when she was grieving her losses, some religious explanations were of no help to her; for example, it did not help to be told that her miscarriage was God's way of preventing less fit children from being born.

The idea that all seasons pass might sound merely like a way of saying that life goes on, but there is an important difference. Insisting that life must go on suggests that there should be little time given to mourning, while the metaphor of a season of grief allows us to understand that there can be a right time for grieving, but that we will eventually move on. It allows the possibility of staying with one's loss without minimizing it, while at the same time giving the comfort that the pain will not always fill one's life. This understanding of loss can be helpful not just for women who have miscarried, but for anyone who experiences powerful grief.

© 2001 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life. He is available to give talks on many philosophical or controversial issues in mental health.