Review by Mary K. Greer
Wouldn’t it be exciting if somebody wrote a book that took place entirely within a tarot reading? Someone has. And it’s all true. Kimberlee Auerbach, a former media whore (her words) for Fox News, is a writer and teller of comedic monologues at New York’s improv venues. The New York Observer characterized her as “a woman addicted to public confession,” for which we can be grateful, as this is the heart of her book. the devil, the lovers, & me is a laugh-out-loud chic-lit autobiography—with soul. Here is a woman who unabashedly depicts the humor in life’s little fiascos as well as in those shattering moments that tear a family or a person apart.
Auerbach uses a tarot reading and the Rider-Waite-Smith deck as a vehicle in which the cards in a “spread” evoke flash-back vignettes. As she explains to her tarot reader, “I just turned thirty-three and definitely feel like there’s some owner’s manual to life I never got.” Eventually the stories merge into a healing process bringing light and understanding to her fears and inner “darkness.”
We are witness to the turning points that transform failure into learning. While not all the dark threads of our lives will light up like they seem to in “Kimmi”’s story, we do learn how neuroticism and even mind-numbing jealousies can be a relentless path to conscious self-acceptance—and at least some of the straw can turn into gold.
For all those tarot readers who chafe at being thought a predictive fortune-teller, take a tip from Iris Goldblatt, who explains right away: “I don’t believe in reading the future.”
At which point, Kimberlee screams in her head (as do all our clients and even ourselves on occasion), “But I need you to tell me the future. I need you to tell me that things are going to get better.”
This is the crux of the book and what makes it such an amazing read. It begins with a woman who looks for signs to provide a bulwark of safety between herself and life’s experiences, and ends with someone who can feel everything and be grateful. But the story is about how she gets there and Tarot is her method.
Tarot reader Iris Goldblatt uses her own eleven-card variation on the Celtic Cross, called the “Grand Cross Spread” (each chapter is a card in the spread). She introduces a fairly sophisticated overview of the “Kabbalah Tree of Life” (annoying, as it should be the adjective “Kabbalistic”). Unfortunately, she doesn’t later return to the Tarot-on-the-Tree to show how it can reveal a greater pattern and significance to the reading itself. The succinct explanations of card meanings are astonishingly profound, while specifically designed to move Auerbach’s story forward. For instance, a simple but effective way to read reversed cards is to show that “you’re having a hard time learning the lesson associated with this card.”
From the beginning the reader has Kimberlee use my own favorite technique, in which the querent describes the pictures, “What do you see when you look at the card?”
Iris then takes Kimberlee deeper, “What do you think he [the figure on the card] is trying to teach you?” Each card is a specific lesson to be learned.
As I try so often to tell my students, there’s no ‘one meaning’ for a card. What a person sees changes depending on where that person is at the moment. “Ride the question, Kimberlee, ride the question,” Iris says. “Look again . . . every person sees something different.”
The Fool in the position of her “Self” (or significator) leads directly to what I call a “snapshot”—in this case, a mental image of Kimmi on her first day at a new school where she’s definitely “uncool.” As the scene unfolds we learn she’s a misfit with a family who doesn’t quite “get it.” A pre-teen drama of humiliation (learning that her mom’s suggestion of a class election motto is local slang for “she masturbates”) and back-assed triumph (she gets points as a girl who’s not afraid to flaunt it) works perfectly to establish her life-pattern of trying (and failing) to control the outcome to protect herself from hurt and embarrassment.
With the Wheel of Fortune we witness a dinner for two during which her father proposes for her reluctant (and absent) boyfriend and even gives her an engagement ring that he should use.
“I’ve always been stuck on the wheel, getting banged up, knocked around. Isn’t that just the way it is?” she cries.
“It doesn’t have to be,” Iris counters.
The Lovers is the “Obstacle,” of course, for this is a true comedy of errors. Iris counsels, “It’s about integration, the need to become whole. . . . We all need to love and trust ourselves more.”
With the High Priestess as “What She’s Striving For,” Auerbach remembers a shamanic drumming session during which she met her spirit animals—Shark and Bat—creatures with the extraordinary ability to sense things, at a vast distance, in the dark. And so, into the dark she descends as she re-experiences the lessons offered by Death, the Devil and the Tower. But, as all those who’ve made the alchemical journey know, light and healing follow darkness. Will this romantic comedy end with a marriage? I’ll leave that for you to discover.
This is a fast-moving, immensely readable, comedic memoir that showcases the Tarot as a serious tool for personal growth and self-discovery. Finally we have a popular press entertainment that unapologetically demonstrates the kind of self-help insights Tarot can provide. I give the devil, the lovers, & me my highest recommendation.
Mary K. Greer is a revolutionary, breaking all the rules regarding methods of learning and using tarot cards. She has forty years tarot experience and, as an author and teacher, emphasizes personal insight and creativity. As a tarot reader, she works as a 'midwife of the soul,' using techniques that are interactive, transformational and empowering. She is the author of eight books on tarot and a biography of four female magicians. Her latest is Mary K. Greer's 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card (2006).