Guys – there is no possible way to be objective in this book review. That’s because I love Shonda Rhimes and everything she does. I started watching Grey’s Anatomy in season 2 (I’ll be honest – I got sucked in by that Super Bowl “bomb in a body cavity” episode, and pretty much stuck around for everything she did afterwards. I may have drifted from Grey’s, and didn’t get super into Private Practice, but I watched her ridiculous show Off the Map because I thought the premise was great, and I watched Scandal from the beginning and basically HAD to watch How to Get Away with Murder. One of my good friends from my old job became my good friend because I was tweeting about how Olivia Pope/Kerry Washington was like, the prettiest most BOSS lady in the land, and she tweeted back “YOU WATCH SCANDAL???” and thus began a ritual of our Friday morning catch-up. It was amazing.
So this is all to say that really, there’s no possible way I was ever going to be objective about Shonda Rhimes. I had already bought into her fictional world, and whatever she was going to say about her life, she had me there already. But guys – it turns out that she has amazing things to say about how she changed her own life too. But let’s back up.
This whole book starts with the premise that Shonda has been saying no to everything. It’s Thanksgiving, and her sister is berating her for not saying yes to some awesomely cool opportunities that are open to a successful show-runner for a major network. And then months later, Shonda wakes up in the night, deeply unhappy, and her sister’s words come back to her. She’s not happy. And it’s because she always says no to everything. So she decides that from that point on, she’s going to start saying yes to things. Things that scare her, things that need to be done.
This includes saying yes to giving an amazing commencement speech at Dartmouth, her alma mater:
But it’s not just saying yes to doing scary public speaking things. It’s saying yes to things like admitting that she isn’t a perfect mother and doesn’t do it all on her own (she has an amazing nanny named Jenny McCarthy who is NOT the crazy anti-vax celeb you’re thinking of). It means saying yes to spending more time with her children even if it means being late for work or social engagements because they are only young once. It means saying yes to taking better care of her body through exercise and diet. It means saying yes to saying no – no to people who ask too much of her time or her money that don’t deserve access to it. It means saying yes to herself and her feelings instead of letting others walk all over her. And sometimes it means saying yes to letting go of the people in your life that are toxic and don’t deserve to take up the space around you.
It’s a very engaging book. If you’re not a fan of Shonda’s shows already, you may not be a fan of the way that it is written, because the way that she speaks and writes here is the way that it is in those shows. She is quick witted, and just lightening fast, and you feel like you’re reading something from your best friend. Listening to the audiobook was a delight because she read it herself, and she has this wonderful voice, and the entire time, it’s like you’re listening to the most interesting story from someone that you now feel like you KNOW deeply.
I knew some things about Shonda before reading this book, but I now feel like I have a deeper understanding of the whys and wherefors of her fictional worlds. Of course this is how things are in the world of Grey’s or Scandal. Because that’s how Shonda is. But the most important part of this book is the inspiration that she gives – it’s possible to make major changes in your life. They’re not going to all happen at once, and it means making big, sometimes scary choices. But these choices – these times when you say YES instead of cowering and saying no – these will make all the difference in your life.
So – if this a book I liked. Hell yes. Is it one I would recommend? Whole-heartedly. And what is the take-away? That the things in life that are scary can be worth it if we only open ourselves up to the possibility of a better life by saying yes.
Details: The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. Published 2015 by Simon & Schuster.