Thursday, February 05, 2009

Review: Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith

Out of necessity I developed a dual personality. During school hours I needed to appear as normal as possible, in order to avoid being beaten up or laughed out of class. However, as soon as I came home and opened the front door, it was like walking onto the set of I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched. For me these TV shows were like documentaries rather than fantasy sitcoms. At last there were other people who, like me, lived in a parallel, paranormal universe. [pg 45]

Walking Through Walls by Philip Smith
Atria, 2008
Nonfiction (Memoir), 332 pgs

Philip Smith's childhood was anything but ordinary. During his early childhood, his father's career as an interior decorator took the family all over the world. Lew Smith's clientele were among the famous and elite, the rich and the powerful. The author's mother seemed to be his perfect companion, both in life and in work. According to the author, things for the Smith family began to unravel, however, when Philip's father, Lew Smith, became more and more interested in the metaphysical.

The author's story pushed the boundaries of believability--at least in terms of my own beliefs. Lew Smith could heal people by manipulating their energy. The stronger he grew in his abilities, he was more and more able to heal, even people in other countries without talking directly to them. He was constantly learning and perfecting the art of healing. He was guided by the spirits. Lew Smith believed that everyone was capable of doing what he could do if they took the time to learn. People came to him in droves to be healed and to learn how to heal.

While Lew Smith's influence and abilities as a healer and psychic often take center stage in the book, it is really only a part of the whole story. Walking Through Walls is also the story of a father and a son. Their relationship with each other was typical in many ways, but not so in others. The two of them were very close, even when at their most distant from each other--physically and emotionally. During his teen years, Philip resented his father and the lifestyle his father had chosen. Philip longed to fit in with the crowd, but his father's eccentricies made that difficult. He was embarrassed by his father.

As time wore on, Philip struggled for his independence. His father was ever present in his life. With Lew, there really were no secrets and Philip often wished he could have some privacy, that he could cut himself off from his father's spirit guides who reported to Lew regularly. Like any teenager, Philip was trying to come into his own. His father, to some degree, was willing to let Philip find his own way, although there was always that tie between them.

Although there were moments when I felt the father's (and the mother's) behavior crossed the line into neglect, it was clear that Lew and Philip Smith loved each other. During Philip's early teen years, I once or twice found myself wondering why Philip's mother didn't step in, and it's never really clear why she didn't. She seemed to take a backseat in Philip's life when her marriage began falling apart, too busy nursing her own wounds.

Philip grew up during the 1950's and 60's in Florida, an interesting time and place in American history. The author was able to capture the tone of the times in his writing, never letting the reader forget the setting. The Smiths faced discrimination on multiple levels. They were Jewish in a time when Jewish people were refused service by a variety of businesses and looked down upon by many in society and within their own Florida community. When Lew Smith became enlightened and began healing, he faced even more hostility and reproach. It was an uphill battle for most of his life. And yet, he stayed true to his beliefs and continued in the direction he felt his life was meant to go.

In spite of my skepticism, I found Walking Through Walls interesting and compelling. Philip is easy to like. I found his writing humorous as well as thoughtful. And while I had mixed feelings about his father in the beginning, by the end I felt I had a better understanding of the type of man he was. And I could see why so many people were drawn to him.

Rating: * (Good)

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled: ARC Challenge and New Authors Challenge


  1. Amazing. You know, when I read through your review, I had to check and see if this was a true story or not. I always wonder how kids with this type of childhood can grow up to be responsible, stable adults! Great review!

  2. Alas...:( I haven't reviewed this book yet, or read it. I had a difficult time with the prmise of the father...Your review makes me want to get a go at it, I have to many ARC books which need reviewed and I have been really bad all around with reading. made a resolution for February, 3 books at least!!!

  3. Great review Wendy! It sounds like this would be an interesting read.

  4. I have not heard of Philip or Lew Smith, but this sounds like a very interesting memoir. What a childhood!

  5. It sounds interesting! The setting kind of reminds me of Don't Come Back From the Moon.

  6. Loved this review. You were honest about your skepticism yet you were able to find some redeeming values within the storyline. I enjoyed reading this post.

  7. Sandy - Occasionally I found it hard to believe I was treading a true story. Philip certainly had an interesting childhood. He's done well for himself from the sounds of it.

    Sylvie - I wasn't sure what I would think of it, but I was curious enough to give it a try. Hopefully when you read it you will enjoy it.

    I'm with you, Sylvie! I'm behind with my review books too. I'm doing my best to catch up, but there just never seems to be enough time to read these days.

    Samantha - Thanks! It was definitely interesting. :-)

    Mariel - I wasn't familiar with either one of them before reading this book either. I did try and do a little research on them after finishing the book, but didn't have much luck online.

    Jen - I haven't read that one, but I have heard of it. What makes Walking Through Walls especially interesting is that it's a true story.

    Staci - Thank you! I think the author's writing skills and abilities as a story teller helped with my enjoyment of the book despite my skepticism. At times though, it did pull me out of the book, hence the rating.

  8. Wonderful review Wendy! This book sounds like a worthwhile read.

    I added the link to the ARC Challenge post. I also added an update to the post. There is now a second level for the challenge. 'The Overacheivers', the challenge is to read an additional 12 books for a total of 24.

  9. Teddy - Thank you! It definitely was interesting.

    I'll check out the update tomorrow for sure (actually today, but I don't count it as the next day until after I sleep and wake up again).

  10. Not sure this is something I'd read, but it sounds interesting. I'd have a hard time believing the story, too. Great review!

    Diary of an Eccentric

  11. Wonderful review of this one, Wendy. I found myself skeptical about Philip's father as well and wish I understood more about how someone could be so in tune. I also wondered about the mother and why she was so passive a lot of the time. Definitely an interesting book.


Thank you for taking the time to visit Musings of a Bookish Kitty. Don't be shy! I would love to hear from you. Due to a recent increase in spam, I will be moderating all comments for the foreseeable future. Please be patient with me as it may take a few hours before I am able to approve your comment.