New Passages: Mapping Your Life Across Time

About the Book

Millions of readers literally defined their lives through Gail Sheehy’s landmark best seller, Passages, named by a Library of Congress survey as one of the most influential books of our time. In New Passages, published in 1995, she examines both Boomers and Gen X, proposing that as people are taking longer to grow up and much longer to die, all the stages of  adulthood are shifting by up to 30 years. Sheehy maps out a completely new frontier – a Second Adulthood beginning in middle life.

“Stop and recalculate,” she writes. “Imagine the day you turn 45 as the infancy of another life.” Instead of declining, men and women who embrace a Second Adulthood are progressing through entirely new passages into lives of deeper meaning, renewed playfulness, and creativity beyond menopause and male menopause.

Sheehy presents startling facts: A woman who reaches age 50 today – and remains free of cancer and heart disease – can expect to see her ninety-second birthday. Similarly, men can expect a dramatically lengthened life span. To plot our route across these vast new stretches of Second Adulthood, we need a new map of adult life.

Sheehy vividly dramatizes these newly developing stages through hundreds of personal and group interviews. Her original insights are borne out by extensive research. New Passages draws on national surveys of professionals and working-class people and fresh findings comparing five generations extracted from fifty years of U.S. Census reports. Combining the scholar’s ability to synthesize data with the novelist’s gift for storytelling, Gail Sheehy allows us to make sense of our own lives by understanding others like us.

New Passages tells us we have the ability to customize our own life cycle. This groundbreaking work awakened and permanently altered the way we think about ourselves, as did the original Passages.