Skip to main content
PBS logo

Book Review of Help Yourself: Finding Hope, Courage, and Happiness

Help Yourself: Finding Hope, Courage, and Happiness
Helpful Score: 2

Dave Pelzer survived one of the worst child abuse cases ever recorded in the state of California. His mother, a mentally disturbed alcoholic, tortured and abused him throughout his childhood--smashing his face into a mirror, forcing him to swallow ammonia, and making him sit on a burning stove, among other heinous cruelties. In his bestselling memoirs, A Child Called It and The Lost Boy, Pelzer recounts his horrific childhood, demonstrating how inner resilience helped him survive and even become a highly caring and accomplished adult. (He was eventually selected as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans.)

Although Pelzer has a graduate degree in the school of hard knocks, he never got a chip on his shoulder. In this self-help book, Pelzer sticks with his warm and plainspoken narrative style to offer advice on how to help yourself overcome adversity and let go of the past. Wisely, Pelzer often deflects attention away from his overpowering story. Instead, he offers anecdotes that pertain to more common, everyday scenarios: you feel taken advantage of at work but are afraid to quit; you have unresolved issues with your spouse. His guidance is familiar, such as never go to bed upset and tackle problems as they arise--don't let them fester. It may sound simplistic, but sometimes that's just what we need--a trustworthy ally who can dole out "been there" advice in a straightforward style. --Gail Hudson