The Second Half: Forty Women Reveal Life After Fifty

Image of The Second Half: Forty Women Reveal Life After Fifty
Release Date: 
February 16, 2022
Brandeis University Press
Reviewed by: 

Full Disclosure: This is not an ordinary review. It’s personal. Taking a cue from the women of The Second Half, this reviewer is coming clean as a full-fledged participant in that very demographic, albeit recently, she is still a second-halfer. Their words are her words. The women in these pages will write the review on her biased behalf.

Black and white photographs show the soft and subtle faces of 40 flesh and blood women. They tell the tender stories of the ages. Born between 1900 (Irene Carlos from Antigua, West Indies, who was 107 years old when interviewed) and 1957 (Salama Ba Sunbol from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, interviewed at age 53), these women may not have come from the same geographic location, but they all arrived at the same place: a new life after the age of 50. Their faces glow with experience and shine with wisdom. 

Warner says that the way she gets to know a place is by taking portraits of the people who live there. In this book the “place” is the second half of life. By spending time with the women who live there, Warner helps us all get to know that territory. What is the truth there? How does it feel there? Who are you there?

And these were their answers, the words of these women. This is the vibe of the second half:

  • The process of maturing has made me more sure of myself.
  • Stuff isn’t important to me; watching the hollyhock come up every year and picking my own basil and making pesto—that’s what’s important to me.
  • My mother committed suicide when she was 67. She was convinced that life was over, and she was so wrong. In my second half, I see just how wrong she was.
  • The most important thing is to have a good relationship with your children; your children should be your best friends.
  • The older I get, the more confident I get.
  • Dwelling on the past or fretting about the future is a waste of time. Now is all there is.
  • The second half is ever expanding—more energy, more life, more fun.
  • Such freedom knowing that tomorrow is now.
  • Your real face starts to emerge in the second half. With more time to yourself, more of yourself will come out. How beautiful it is.
  • Everything is a flurry, a blur, when you are young. The second half brings focus and clarity.
  • I feel well within myself. I feel engaged with life.
  • My sense of who I am has changed. A lot of my earlier life feels as though it’s become compost for what’s growing now.
  • My advice to the younger women: Find yourself at all cost; then be yourself at all cost.
  • I lived many years trying to satisfy the desire of my mother, a boyfriend, a husband,a boss, before I realized what I wanted for myself. I no longer need to impress people.
  • I didn’t like the life that was expected of me when I was younger. I felt very constrained. Now I feel I am in the right place. Now is the time of my greatest happiness.
  • Young people come to me for advice now. I tell them: Know the life you’re living, and if it’s not useful, cut it out. Don’t rush into things. Take your time sorting it out.
  • My life changed 100% after 50, when I finally got to be in charge!
  • I am most proud of bringing up three exceptional human beings. Everything else is insignificant.
  • I feel like a young girl, full of life and energy; I don’t feel like an old woman.
  • With age comes much better judgement about everything.
  • I am more centered now than I ever was before.
  • My girlfriends are my life now. It’s women who get us through life. These connections are gold.
  • I am more understanding of life, of human nature.
  • My second half is much better than the first. My sense of who I am has changed, thanks to thirty years of therapy. The more I know myself, the happier I am.
  • What’s important is living a happy, peaceful, and healthy lifestyle. Laugh, laugh, laugh.
  • In the first half I was very tired. I was never happy inside. I was nothing. Now I feel I am another woman. No one orders me around anymore. Leave the past in the past.
  • Now is the time of my greatest happiness, my greatest freedom, my greatest security, my greatest joy. It is deeper and richer than ever before.
  • Oh, am I in my second half? I was not aware. I don’t feel “old.” I feel terrific.
  • I am finally allowed to be interested in what I have to say. When I was younger I tried to discuss more, consider what other people said about this or that. Now I just do what I feel I have to do. I trust myself. It’s a wonderful feeling.
  • My second half started with being a widow. Losing the person who has been part of your life throws everything into question. I reassessed everything. Who I wanted to see, what I wanted to do with my time. Now I know myself so much better. Less important is doing. More important is being. Who I am is so much more important. Life gets better. Having lost a husband, I can still say that life gets better.
  • You have the right to be who you want to be, and give yourself that right— it’s your birthright. Your work is to find out what you want. Nobody else call tell you that; don’t let anyone else take on that role for you.

It is with these words that any woman who reaches the age of 50 and beyond can exhilarate in the fact that a better life is just beginning.