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Summary

In his landmark provocative style, Stephen Jenkinson makes the case that we must birth a new generation of elders, one poised and willing to be true stewards of the planet and its species.

Come of Age does not offer tips on how to be a better senior citizen or how to be kinder to our elders. Rather, with lyrical prose and incisive insight, Stephen Jenkinson explores the great paradox of elderhood in North America: how we are awash in the aged and yet somehow lacking in wisdom; how we relegate senior citizens to the corner of the house while simultaneously heralding them as sage elders simply by virtue of their age. Our own unreconciled relationship with what it means to be an elder has yielded a culture nearly bereft of them. Meanwhile, the planet boils, and the younger generation boils with anger over being left an environment and sociopolitical landscape deeply scarred and broken.

Taking on the sacred cow of the family, Jenkinson argues that elderhood is a function rather than an identity - it is not a position earned simply by the number of years on the planet or the title “parent” or “grandparent”. As with his seminal book Die Wise, Jenkinson interweaves rich personal stories with iconoclastic observations that will leave listeners radically rethinking their concept of what it takes to be an elder and the risks of doing otherwise. Part critique, part call to action, Come of Age is a love song inviting us - imploring us - to elderhood in this time of trouble. That time is now. We’re an hour before dawn, and first light will show the carnage, or the courage, we bequeath to the generations to come.

©2018 Stephen Jenkinson (P)2018 North Atlantic Books

Critic reviews

“This isn’t a book, it’s an agitation. A glorious rumination that gets inside words themselves and tugs adroitly at their root system, part of a wider exfoliation that holds subtle ideas close, lest they disappear in all this mud, smoke, and darkness. This isn’t a book, it’s a kind of divining, the rare breed that can leave the scriber harrowed and the reader blessed. This isn’t a book, it’s a murmuration, erudite wonderings that have wingspan and wit, turning suddenly and with elegance over the trembling acreage of our lives.” (Dr. Martin Shaw, author of Scatterlings: Getting Claimed in the Age of Amnesia)

“Jenkinson does not blame, indict, nor traffic in solution, rather he elders - with an immense love of life and the world - the long redemptive road where young and old might yet recognize each other and decide to take a little walk. Come of Age has so much respect for your willingness to pick it up that it will ask more of you than you ever thought possible; an unlikely and precious gift that may just change everything.” (Sean Aiken, author of The One-Week Job Project)

“We live in deeply troubled times. The biosphere is collapsing, the economy sputtering, and the mania for the ever-new continues its siren song. To whom and to what can young people turn that might still yet stand in the face of the storm? Enter Come of Age - a raucous and grief-soaked tangle through the annals of history, language, etymology, and, above all, a deep love of life. With fierce prose and unrelenting compassion, Stephen Jenkinson makes the case for elderhood in a time desperate for the wisdom that accrues to those willing to be aged, who are willing to know limitation and deep service to the ending of days.” (Ian MacKenzie, filmmaker, Occupy Love and Amplify Her)

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Unusual

An unusual book, I enjoyed it regardless. Well narrated by the author himself. Was a shame to hear it finish. One to revisit again; some of the content is difficult to hear, hard to accept, it has the ring of truth in it for me.

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Words of wisdom

Stephen is a master story teller! I am grateful for his wisdom during these troubled times as he feels like a trusted companion. The book was even more special as I loved hearing his voice.

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  • dina crosta
  • 18-05-19

The Elder I’ve been seeking.

This audible book has rendered me flummoxed and fascinated by the depth of the prose and the plea of the author. This book cannot and should not be listened to one time only. It’s haunting in the best sense of the word and puts the listener/reader to work. I feel I am now a student of this book and it’s teachings are both directive and nuanced. This is not a “how to become and elder”. It seems to me that this book is a call to deepen your love of the mysteries of life and turn your wonderings into questions to live by.

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  • Kip
  • 04-04-19

A book I am truly thankful for.

A beautiful, rich, challenging piece of wisdom that begs subsequent hearings. Jenkinson reads his work as it must be listened to, with deliberateness and depth. It is a book that meets our craving for an offering of rich insight, and, at the same time, refuses to diminish itself or its listener with easy answers or platitudes or weightless prescriptions. In short, a gift.

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  • Lorre R. Fleming
  • 29-06-20

A troubling and challenging book, and so necessary

As a few of the reviews here attest, this book is not for everyone. Anyone looking to be cheered or instructed or entertained should look elsewhere. As others have suggested, one listen is not enough. This is a meaty, deep dive of a book. Jenkinson uses language with the artistry, skill, and precision of a master carver of wood or stone. Appreciating the nuance and power of such a carver's life-honed work takes time and the willingness to wonder. Similarly, the nuance and depth and breadth of meaning in Jenkinson's prose requires a commitment of time, attention, and willingness to feel deeply. And to wonder. This is not a "feel good" book. It is the antidote to "feel good". I am profoundly grateful for it, and for all the brave and broken-hearted souls who find their way to this man's work and recognize it for the life-affirming prayer and gift that it is.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 19-11-20

Read this for deepening your purpose for living...

Absolutely loved the read, which felt to be a real, raw approach to wondering aloud with Stephen as he shares his finest wine, his most evocative stories to awaken us to what everyone's reality is to be-our own end. Yet, he invites us to wander through critical thinking, deep observation, and poetically poised anecdotes about what it might mean to "Come of Age" at this time. Stephen stands in his own integrity as he imagines aloud about might be possible if we were to come into elderhood, instead of merely becoming old. I've begun to journey towards the humbled state of becoming a 'true elder' so that perhaps by the time I get to my last days, I can leave behind a legacy of living that makes my death honorable. I'm 39 years, but this book had a timelessness to it that makes it perennial stock worth resourcing inspiration from, for generations to come...and the span of ages already here! Worth every syllable, IMO!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 25-09-20

outstanding

not what you might be wanting but definitely what you are needing, time tested grounded and sane. a spiritual voice to guide the lost westerner if ever there was one. so much gratitude and love for this man. respect for this incredible work. thank you!

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  • Born2Hike
  • 10-04-20

very grim

I couldn't finish it; seemed laborious and bleak to me, perhaps like life, but a downer

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  • Claire H
  • 17-03-19

not my style

I thought this would be a thought provoking book. I've tried to decide if it is the narration or the author and I think it is both. I simply cannot get any interest in the language of this book. I cannot bring myself to engage. try a clip before you buy.

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  • Gail M. Webber
  • 13-11-18

Erudite observations about elder-hood

I found this book informing and intriguing. Jenkinson's words created fascinating new ways to think about growing old in North American cultures. He tied long-ago thinking together with information about the paths that brought us to where we are today. It was a difficult read for me because the vocabulary he used mandated a dictionary be by my side. I have a hard copy, too. I believe his ideas would find a broader audience should he decide to present them in an easy-to-read format. This is not meant to discourage anyone from tackling this version. It's well worth the effort for those with sufficient interest in the topic.

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  • Levi Gershkowitz
  • 07-11-18

From Older to Elder

Thank you Stephan Jenkinson for being a catastrophe of this age. Much of what is shared here should be required reading, or listening, got the aging and the aged, or any of us youngsters who hope to catch a glimpse of time's crooked road.

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  • S.C.
  • 26-09-18

Medicine of the deepest potency.

Jenkinson is a master storyteller and offers deep poetic insight into many life mysteries heretofore unpondered. It's great to hear audio directly from the author.