Cover image for If the spirit moves you : life and love after death
If the spirit moves you : life and love after death
Picardie, Justine.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York: Riverhead Books, 2002.

Physical Description:
258 pages ; 23 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF1277.P49 A3 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



If the Spirit Moves Youis the story of life after death-it chronicles a year in the life of Justine Picardie following the death of her sister, her soulmate, from breast cancer. It tells of the yearning to conjure again a voice from the vast silence, of how we fill the space that appears when someone dies, or how the void fills itself, of a bond between sisters that, like an endless conversation, carries on. Told in a series of diary entries from Good Friday 2000 to Easter Sunday 2001, it is filled with significant characters from the author's life-her Jewish academic father, who searches for answers to life's existential questions in the Kabbalah; her Catholic therapist mother; her husband; her children-as well as the spiritualists she encounters and their machines that speak to the dead. If the Spirit Moves Youis poignant and bracing, cosmic and uplifting, all at once.

Author Notes

Justine Picardie is a journalist who worked most recently as features director of British Vogue and as editor of the Observer Magazine. She is currently a full-time freelance writer for numerous publications including the Sunday Telegraph Magazine, Harper's Bazaar and the Times of London. She has also written several fiction and non-fiction books including Wish I May, Daphne, If the Spirit Moves You: Life and Love after Death, and My Mother's Wedding Dress. Picardie's title, Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life became a New York Times bestseller in September of 2015.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It is hard to say goodbye when someone you love dies, and doubly difficult when one is as close as Picardie was to her sister, Ruth, a victim of breast cancer in her early thirties. Picardie's book--a diary of the year after Ruth's death--records her often-strained relations with her Jewish intellectual father, who had had a nervous breakdown when young, and her therapist mother, a Catholic, but is more devoted to Picardie's attempts to contact Ruth's spirit. In a lesser writer's hands, this kind of thing easily could appear silly. But Picardie gives it a poignancy and an honesty that make the reader believe her sadness. Furthermore, she makes light of herself for resorting to spiritualists, New Age therapists, and mediums to communicate with Ruth, yet her refusal to give up trying registers not as stubbornness but as a hopeful expression of love. Is there life after death? Picardie's life after Ruth's demise, and her luminous memorial to her, virtually prove that there is. --June Sawyers

Publisher's Weekly Review

As an editor at London's Observer, Picardie hired her younger sister, Ruth, to write a series of columns chronicling her personal experiences with breast cancer. After submitting only a few essays, Ruth, the mother of two-year-old twins, died at age 33. Justine and Ruth had been exceptionally close, and here the surviving sibling offers diary entries from her own year of mourning between Good Friday 2000 and Easter Sunday 2001. Picardie is no stranger to death, undergoing an unusual number of losses through illness, accident and suicide, and this excess along with her deep grief over her sister's death leads her on a quest for answers to one of life's most basic mysteries: "Where do the dead go?" Missing Ruth terribly, Picardie realizes, "I didn't expect silence," and begins watching for signs and messages. Urgently seeking communication with "the other side," Picardie visits "spiritualists," scientific researchers and inventors of electronic machines that claim to record the voices of the dead. With obsessive hope and healthy skepticism, Picardie haunts the Internet, flies halfway around the world to a conference of psychic mediums and studies Freud and Jung's unpublished correspondences. She describes her dreams of Ruth and arguments with her rational "imaginary therapist." Frustrated with Ruth's silence, the author reveals the mourner's secret fear that "she doesn't love me anymore; she doesn't want to talk to me." Originally published by Macmillan in Great Britain, this well-told tale is a deeply touching, intellectually captivating investigation into the elusive nature of love and death. (June 10) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

British journalist Ruth Picardie compiled her thoughts and e-mail about her Stage III breast cancer into a magazine column and later into a book, Before I Say Goodbye. Ruth died in 1997 at age 33. Now her sister, Justine, wants to make sure she hasn't lost Ruth, with whom she shared so much. This is Picardie's attempts over the course of a year to speak with Ruth. Is that groaning we hear? Picardie, a writer and editor herself, was also skeptical of psychic phenomena. Written in diary form, her book recounts, often bitingly, her year of psychic readings, visits with mediums who claimed to communicate with the dead (it's the 21st century we're talking e-mail and computer spell-check), psychic seminars, spirit writing and recordings, and even a U.S. conference of spiritualists. Her husband and children are supportive if not quite gung-ho. Picardie finds most of the psychic communiqus too general to mean much to her, though readers disbelieving of psychic phenomena may offer a grudging "maybe" after hearing about some of her experiences and the research that is underway. This book won't convert skeptics; the journey didn't convert Picardie. But love is a powerful thing, and if talking with the dead can reassure the living, even if the conversations are only in our heads, is that really so bad? Recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/01.] Bette-Lee Fox, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.