“The Smooth River” by Richard S. Cohen
is a self-help book that offers valuable insights on how to live a fulfilling life despite the inevitability of death.
It is rooted in the author’s personal and poignant story. The book accounts for the time following his wife Marcia’s diagnosis and subsequent battle with pancreatic cancer.
Cohen shares their journey with the explicit aim of helping others facing similar circumstances, providing a beacon of hope amidst overwhelming odds.
Despite living only 160 days after her diagnosis, Marcia’s approach to life, marked by deep intention and her professional expertise in crisis management, enabled them to experience days filled with love, peace, and dignity.
The Cohens’ philosophy, aptly named the Smooth River, embraces the qualities of composure, adaptability to challenging realities, finding joy in small things, and recognizing love and beauty even in death. Their story strikes a delicate balance between enduring hope and practicality, dispelling the notion that the two are contradictory. “The Smooth River” challenges the conventional cancer mantras of fighting, winning, and never giving up, instead embracing the wisdom of assessing the odds and, when appropriate, acknowledging the finite nature of life. Although Marcia may have “lost” her battle with cancer in the conventional sense, her story illuminates the profound gains she and her husband experienced through their choices and the transformative nature of their journey.
The book’s bold and honest chronological narrative provides the factual information the Cohens sought from medical professionals and advisors. It does not shy away from uncomfortable emotions or stark statistics, offering a comprehensive understanding of their experiences. “The Smooth River” showcases the principles they employed to develop a medical and life plan, embodying a holistic approach that encompasses the body, mind, and spirit in the pursuit of healing. The book demonstrates a broad view of treatment options, incorporating conventional medical approaches such as chemotherapy, spiritual practices like meditation, and interpersonal ideas encouraging open expression of concerns.
The seamless integration of narrative elements with clear and concise explanations of critical medical and mindset perspectives enhances the book’s impact. The narrative is the most fascinating and transformative aspect of the work, presented excellently through compelling scenes, precise language, and well-drawn characterizations. Although Cohen is the narrator, Marcia’s voice and values permeate the book, characterized by blunt honesty, warmth, unwavering hope, and clear thinking. The couple’s effective communication, evident in their unified voices throughout the years preceding Marcia’s diagnosis and particularly during the challenging days, underscores their strong bond. While the emotions conveyed are raw—Marcia’s passing occurred in early 2020—the book maintains an appropriate distance from sentimentality while authentically exploring the multifaceted emotions associated with grief. The appendix, featuring a list of influential books that Marcia read, is a valuable resource for readers aspiring to live as she did.
“The Smooth River” is a self-help book that illuminates the path to living a rich and meaningful life, even when confronted with mortality. Richard S. Cohen’s compassionate and insightful narrative serves as a guiding light, offering profound wisdom and practical advice to readers navigating their journeys.
Disclosure: At Blogzah, we value transparency and provide honest, unbiased book reviews. This review is not an endorsement, and we received no payment from the publisher. We only recommend books that inspire us. We disclose this in accordance with FTC guidelines.