REDWOOD: He did have a few powerful things to say in his time.
BREHONY: Oh, yes. [laughter]
REDWOOD: Do you find that there are differences in how men and women experience midlife?
BREHONY: Yes. While I think that underneath it all it’s really the same thing, sometimes the expression of that transition can be different. With women, there are other very profound physiological things going on that cause people to say, "Oh, this is not about midlife, it’s about menopause." I personally don’t believe that hormones cause feelings, I think they amplify feelings. That’s something that, as far as we know, men don’t go through in quite the same way.
But in some ways, I think men have it harder at this transition, because in our culture (though it is changing), men don’t have a language for feelings. And for many men, they haven't known how to express feelings all their lives, and here they’re having powerful feelings and they lack the experience to express those feelings. Again, I don't want to add to stereotypes, and I'm not saying this applies to all men or all women. But in general, it's true. In fact, when I first came up with the idea for this book, the first agent I had said I should focus it only toward women, because women buy many more books of this type. Even as a lifelong feminist, I refused. I said, "I think this is about everybody." I said I would certainly put in different kinds of examples because people of different genders might resonate with different stories. But do you know, I have received more letters from men than women, which shocked me and shocked my publisher. I continue to get emails and letters, and many of them are from men who say, "I’ve never even read a book like this before."
REDWOOD: What effect are they saying it has upon them?
BREHONY: A lot of people have said it inspired them to make changes. A couple of different guys said, "After I read your book, I thought you'd been following me around for the past few years." Some have said that they always wanted to do X and Y, and after reading the book they registered to take a class to realize that dream. I even got an email from a guy writing from a pub in Dublin, writing on his laptop. He said, "I grew up in England, and for almost all of my life I never really claimed my Irish roots, because there's still a lot of prejudice in England. And here I am in Dublin, thinking about my beginnings."
REDWOOD: What was it in the book that elicited this response?
BREHONY: The idea of being who you're supposed to be, claiming the sense of self that I think we’re all endowed with. I don't think we have to go out and look for it. It’s there! It's a question of uncovering it. So quickly and so easily that essence can get covered up with conformity. Our mother and father, gender role and religion. Society says we're supposed to be this, and you realize that it may not be authentic for you. But a lot of people are trapped, stuck in how to get out of that.
REDWOOD: Do we need an inspirational example in order to bring out our potential?
BREHONY: I think that's one of the ways. I think there are lots of ways to get it. Some people, as Paul did on the road to Damascus, have an epiphany. The Buddha found it sitting under the bodhi tree. He was looking, but a lot of people find it whether they're looking or not, if they’re open to it. I really do believe that the universe gives us every opportunity to know it, to move in the direction of the self and the soul. But we get busy, and we get stressed out, and we live in such a linear-thinking society that many people tend to think that if you can’t see it or touch it or taste it or smell it, then it doesn't exist. I think that's very wrong and it keeps people on a track for what oftentimes is a person’s whole life.