Gail Sheehy’s title Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life refers to the passages or transitions that people make between years of relative stability in their adult lives. Passages are often painful periods during which women and men are forced to change their assumptions about their relationships, their jobs, and their goals. (Although her subtitle refers to “crises,” Sheehy prefers the less threatening word “passages.”) These passages are predictable—one way or another, all adults must move from one stage to the next.
Before Passages was published, the stages of children’s lives (such as “the terrible twos”) were well known, but little had been written about how adults develop, and that little was mainly written by men about men. In contrast, Sheehy describes the development of both women and men. She goes on to show that women’s lives have different changes from men’s and that these changes affect not only the women themselves but also their marriages.
Sheehy began to think about passages one day in her mid-thirties. In her job as a journalist, she was talking to a young boy in Northern Ireland—and his face was shot off. That moment shattered her comfortable assumptions about life and made her confront her own mortality. In her anguish, she wondered if she was unique and alone in what was happening to her at that time in her life. So she set about interviewing other adults about growing older...
(The entire section is 441 words.)