The Devil, The Lovers and Me by Kimberlee Auerbach
Review by Diane Wilkes
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Early on in my tarot obsession, I found it very difficult to read instructional books. They seemed rather dry to someone who read mostly novels with only an occasional foray into biography and history. Because Tarot for Your Self was experiential in nature, I warmed to that one, but I wanted more specific information about each card than that book offered. When Marsha Norman's The Fortune Teller was published, I bought it excitedly, sure that I'd painlessly learn all the arcane details about the cards I sought.
I was bitterly disappointed. And as I struggled to learn the cards through practice (this was long before the popularization of the Internet), the instruction books became more accessible, because I could place people and experience with the descriptions.
If The Devil, The Lovers and Me had existed in those days, it would have been exactly what I hoped and dreamed The Fortune Teller could be...even though Auerbach's book is a memoir, not fiction. It begins with an expanded version of the Celtic Cross utilizing only the Major Arcana, and each chapter is based on the cards in a reading the author received one night in New York City. Auerbach intersperses her "real" life narrative with the card and its position in the layout, meshing the meanings beautifully based on interpretations and insights provided by Iris Goldblatt, a wise and sometimes confrontational reader. At one point, the author privately ruminates, "Is this a do-it-yourself reading?" because Goldblatt's interactive style demands Auerbach look at the cards and talk about her responses to them. I laughed out loud, because this is almost the exact description I used when telling a friend what her forthcoming reading with Mary Greer would be like.
Truthfully, most of Goldblatt's insights about the cards are ones I have come to learn myself, either through reading the cards or reading books on tarot. But they are good ones, valuable ones, important ones for beginning readers to grasp. I often found myself nodding in agreement and wished I had that information 20-some years ago when I began studying the tarot in earnest. But what I loved most about this book was Auerbach's lively and open voice, as well as how her memorable personal experiences were elucidated by the cards (and vice versa). Some of her memories are now etched into my understanding of the cards and I think my readings will be richer for that knowledge.
One thing I learned about myself through my personal study of tarot was that working with people had to be at the heart of any career I'd find fulfilling--a hint borne out by my early preference for novels and biography. Not having The Devil, The Lovers and Me made the work and joy of learning tarot more arduous of a quest--but one thing you learn (or are reminded) in this wonderful book is that each of us has our own individual journey and lessons we must learn--and sometimes there are no short-cuts. Thankfully, this book is available now for tarotists, be they beginners or masters--and I recommend it to them all.
"I'm not knocking your mother," Iris says, putting out her hand to reassure me.
"I just feel defensive of her. She had a very rough childhood. She was sexually abused and beaten, and in some ways she was just as much of a kid as Mikey and I were when we were growing up. I think she saw my dad as a father figure and then over the years, she grew up and wanted out."
"That happens a lot," Iris says and pauses. "The Empress uses the will and power of the Magician and the instincts and wisdom of the HIgh Priestess to protect herself and her creations in the world. If a little girl is not protected by her mother, and later becomes a mother herself, she often does not have the skills to protect her children. Only when she learns how to protect herself will her children feel safe. It's a cycle that's hard to break."
"My mother could have abused us but she didn't. She was just very wounded."
"We're all wounded," Iris says. "That's what I was trying to say before, that we all have a dark side we bury that we then later have to deal with. There is a dark side and a light side with every card, too, depending on how you read it. The mother archetype is complex. Like Mother Nature, she protects and destroys. She nurtures and swallows." p. 123
Excerpt © 2008 NAL Press
Review and page © 2008, 2009 Diane Wilkes