Book Review for “Keys to Harmony: Memoir of Depression, Daring, and Creativity” by Margalit Jakob.
Summary: “A pianist/therapist loses access to a crucial memory. Neither able to play, nor to relinquish her dream, she finds herself in an agonizing limbo. Filled with piercing insights, this is a thrilling book about overcoming depression and reclaiming one’s creativity. Jakob inspires her clients to see their dreams as an indication of unrealized potential.”
Age: Adult; Genres: Literary, Non-Fiction; Settings: Contemporary; Israel (mostly), US and UK; Other Categories: Memoir, Autobiography, Mental Health.
No, I don’t usually read memoirs that aren’t about travel or someone famous I want to know more about. So, I was a bit surprised at myself for agreeing to read this, especially because I know the author quite well through my in-laws. In fact, my in-laws appear in this book a couple of times. Admittedly, I was waiting for them to show up. However, when they did, I was a bit surprised that my mother-in-law was called a musician, and not a psychiatrist, which was her real profession. Yes, technically, she could have claimed the title of composer as well. My father-in-law was the real musician with a degree in piano performance, but he earned his living as a special education teacher. It is true, however that, as the book states, my in-laws hosted and arranged many musical evenings, and I recall attending several of the recitals mentioned in this book. So, there’s a personal connection here.
I should mention that I found something strange with this book, in that Margalit (sorry, I find it hard to call her by her last name here) names her husband Elisha, and that’s not the name by which I’ve known him. However, his real name does come up in the author’s notes of thanks. As they say, whatever – it isn’t as if her husband’s name made any difference to the book, but it was a bit jarring for me. Also, as I watched the years go past during the period that Margalit describes here, I kept thinking about all the things happening in my own life at the same time. Most of my memories had little to nothing to do with Margalit, but when I got closer to the date when my mother-in-law passed away, I did feel uneasy. It took me a bit to figure out why. Then I realized it was not because I thought she’d put that experience into the book, but because I realized that except for seeing the dates, all of the historical events of these years (some of which were pretty significant) were missing here. For me, that felt somewhat disingenuous, as if she purposely left those things out to avoid how they might have affected her emotional and mental state. I mean, for example, if she had gone through all this starting in 2019, wouldn’t Covid-19 have come into the mix somewhere?
I understand why Margalit wrote this book. It wasn’t just for her personally, although I’m sure it was cathartic. It was also so that people who have gone through similar experiences can see how she was able to cope with her depression. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t really a self-help book – but there are some self-help elements here. This came into the book soon after Margalit has her own epiphany, which for me would have been a good place to end this book. However, that’s when she included examples of how she used her therapeutic method to treat her clients. Now, I’d be willing to hazard a guess that every form of depression is a little different. The way one person finds a way to live with it, without it debilitating them, is a fascinating journey, and it might help some other people. But for me, it felt a touch voyeuristic to read about how she worked with her own patients. Again, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing that’s actually preachy here, and Margalit’s processes with her clients will be effective for some people – but not everyone. She proves this herself when she describes the many different paths she took until she found her own way towards the healing process.
So, the question here is, would I recommend this book to others? Well, I found a good deal of this book very interesting to read. Margalit’s writing has a very softly descriptive feel to it, so that some parts felt almost like fiction – which I believe is a compliment. I can also say that for most of the book, I enjoyed Margalit’s writing style, and obviously, there was enough appeal here to keep me reading. In all honesty, however, I admit I did skim some parts, especially the visualization vignettes at the end of the book. Even so, for the most part, it was a good read, and I can recommend it to creative people who might be blocked or depressed – if not to find a cure for themselves, but rather to know they aren’t alone. For all this, I think I’ll give it three and a half stars out of five.
Keymodes released “Keys to Harmony” by Margalit Jakob on December 26, 2021. This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Blackwell’s, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Booksamillion.com, new or used from Alibris, as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the author for lending me a copy of this book for review.