Returning to America, she took stock of her life. At 35, suddenly her lifestyle of journalistic travel did not seem enough. She felt she had been a 'performer' in life, not really participating in it, even though she had had a child and been married and divorced. Her 'whole jerry built world' as she describes it, threatened to come apart. She had seen herself as the optimistic, fearless, loving an ambitious 'good' girl - but now she seemed to be looking at the dark side. Half her life had been lived.
With this terrifying thought, she wondered: what do other people do when this happens to them? Some seemed to push themselves harder with their careers, others began playing dangerous sports, or giving bigger parties or taking younger people to bed. But she knew none of these things would fill the gaping hole in her psyche.
Passages was one of the publishing phenomenons of the 1970s. The subject of adult life crises was not an obviously 'hot' one, but with its groovy cover, serialization in popular magazines and the author's talent for publicity, Passages became a bestseller. The writing style is what you would expect of a classy magazine feature writer, pulling the reader in from the first page.
It is easy to dismiss the book as dated pop psychology, but many readers of Passages are moved to exclaim 'That's me!' as they recognize themselves in Sheehy's descriptions of the stages of adult life, and has made many feel less alone as they negotiate life’s rapids.