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Book Review – Psychic: My Life in Two Worlds

May 30, 2010

I normally don’t participate in Book Tours, and so when I was contacted to review Sylvia Browne’s autobiogaphy Psychic: My Life in Two Worlds, I at first thought ‘no’. But the book description grabbed me, with the promise that Ms. Browne would share some details on how she managed both her personal life and psychic abilities over the years. I am of course very interested in the intuitive arts, and am also very interested in spiritual women and their memoirs, so from that perspective I decided to give it a shot.

In case you are not familiar with her, Ms. Browne is an internationally renowned psychic who has written multiple NY Times bestsellers, founded a 8,000-member church, and became somewhat of a celebrity during her regular appearances on the Montel Williams show. She’s 73 years old, has been married 4 times, has 2 adult children and several grandchildren, and has built her intuitive consultation business and various foundations from scratch – twice, due to fraud charges levied at her and her second husband that left her financially destitute. Whatever you might think of Ms. Browne and her psychic abilities, she hasn’t sat on the sidelines of life.

She attracts both ardent fans and harsh critics, and I’m neither, so I’ll try and just review the book, instead of her. My bottom-line opinion of this memoir is this: It was a fun read, but I would have liked a little more personal sharing and less ghost stories. I have only read one other of Ms. Browne’s books, Secrets & Mysteries of the World, which was also great fun, although nothing particularly new. Since I am not very familiar with her other books, I can’t comment on how much material in Psychic is actually new. Coming to it without much prior background on her, I found it a compelling story of a women who has lived multiple lives within this one, recreating her self often as her situation demanded it.

The first three chapters of this book were actually my favorite, when she describes her childhood and troubled first marriage. She discusses how she discovered her psychic gifts and how she learned to deal with them in a challenging family environment, as well as within a Catholic school. On a personal level she at first just wanted a ‘normal’ life, and this led her to a bad first marriage, which she struggled within for many years before finally calling it quits.

After this she devotes quite a bit of time to various cases she worked on as her psychic practice grew, particularly stories of ghosts that she communicated with. Although entertaining, I thought these middle chapters got a bit long, and the personal voice and connection with the reader got lost. She raised her children during this period of her life, but she doesn’t discuss motherhood much, or how (or if) being psychic influenced her parenting, which I was personally hoping she would do.

I was also hoping that she would share a little bit more about how her abilities evolved, and how she learned to distinguish true seeings from other phenomena. She does describe a little bit about how she distinguishes between different types of energy and spirit phenomena – imprints (psychic ‘residue’ left on a place from prior inhabitants), ghosts, and spirits, but most of her psychic information is conveyed through actual ‘cases’ she worked on – successful cases, I might add, not the ones that she is sometimes accused of being mistaken on.

As for those, she doesn’t address them or most of the other criticism often levied at her, which is of course her right. When you hit a certain level of celebrity, especially in a field as controversial as the psychic arts, I’m sure the critics are pretty much never-ending. But I thought even just a little on how she has handled some of this might have been interesting. She does make it clear that she is not omniscient, that her psychic gifts are not infallible, and that she is not particularly clairvoyant about events in her own life. She also briefly discusses the financial fraud charges that were levied against both her and her second husband.

Overall, I found the book a bit careful, the closer it got to current events especially. She seemed reticent to share too much, and I was often left with the feeling there was ‘more to the story’. And Ms. Browne’s ‘theology’ is quite different from my own (to the extent I have one!) Still, there are many fascinating tales in here for anyone interested in spirit communication, ghosts, and psychic abilities in general. And there is no question Ms. Browne is a strong women, and one who has risen from the ashes multiple times. Her strong personality and roller-coaster life made it a fun – or at least, never boring – read. If you are looking for something along these lines for a summer read, this might be just the ticket.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2010 10:47 am

    Great review, Lisa. Although I’m not particularly interested in these kinds of people (only the phenomena), I did enjoy reading your post. Funny thing is, whenever I hear about a psychic with celebrity status, the first thing that enters my mind is Lao Tzu: “He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.” I like comedians more… at least they know how to make fun of themselves. Does Sylvia have a few jokes up her sleeve? =)

  2. June 1, 2010 5:00 pm

    Ryhen – I agree about comedians. Sylvia is quite self-deprecating, and that is humorous at times, but yes, she could have used some jokes too!

  3. June 2, 2010 7:38 pm

    This is a very level-headed review of a book that is hard to stay that way.

    I have never read her book, and because I don’t have a TV, never saw her on TV. I just know her through her website, so my knowledge is very limited, but what I wonder is why she talks so strongly and judgmentally. That will make a lot of unnecessary “enemies”. At least, it’s a put-off for me.

  4. June 2, 2010 9:58 pm

    Akemi – yes, she does not hold back her opinions and it certainly would seem that this would potentially attract more enemies. On the other hand, I guess that is just her way. But I had been hoping she would talk a bit more about it…

  5. June 3, 2010 3:12 am

    I love the perspective that you bring to this, because it’s close to what my own might be. It would probably be interesting to chat with Sylvia specifically about her detractors.

    Thanks for being on this tour!

  6. June 3, 2010 5:21 am

    Thanks for the book review. I’ve never been drawn to Sylvia Browne and I love psychics. I just saw John Holland and Lisa Williams at the Hay House conference here in San Diego and they were great! Their energy and open hearts were tremendous as was their talent. If you are interested in reading something about psychics, I would suggest one of their books. That’s my two cents. Thanks for sharing, Lisa.

    -Melinda

  7. June 3, 2010 6:31 pm

    Trish – thanks for the opportunity!

    Hi Melinda – thanks for the references! I have read a lot about and by various psychics, and do consider myself a seer although I don’t talk much about that here (and my own type of seeing is very different than what we traditionally call ‘psychic’ in this day and age.) I hadn’t been particularly drawn to Sylvia’s work either in the past, but when contacted about this book, thought it might be interesting. Like I said, she certainly has not sat on the sidelines of life! And I liked her spirit guide Francine quite a bit, based on this book. So it was interesting for me. But I will check into the ones you mention, thanks.

  8. June 15, 2010 3:22 pm

    I have not read anything by her, but it seems that any kind of memoir about how one opens to one’s gifts and is a parent would be timely. Hummm, maybe we will just have to write about it ourselves! One of the things I have struggled with is how to teach my kids to trust their instincts. When they are tweens and teenagers in a suburban culture, their instincts get mixed up with peer group pressure, which is intense. One day I will be far enough away from the raising of the kids to write more objectively….

  9. June 15, 2010 3:24 pm

    Oh, and one other thing. Trusting my own instincts, as someone born in 1956, has been a tremendous journey with many wrong-trod paths!

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