In her foreword to this book, Anne Lamott reflects on learning storytelling from author Mark Yaconelli: “Twenty years ago, I witnessed him at an evening workshop in which he got several dozen adults and teenagers to stand up, mill around, and bump into each other while muttering, 'Mill, mill, mill.' I milled — which is SO not me — and came to know the secret, intimate places that my bumpees loved most in the world. And I told them mine.”

The premise of Yaconelli’s book and teaching is the fear and isolation we experience in our everyday lives. Our hurts call for healing, and our loss of orientation leads us to keep seeking for light and answers. He also aims, he says, to speak to the longing within us that tries to find words “for a place or time that the soul once knew.”

He is the founder and director of a nonprofit called The Hearth, based in Ashland, Oregon. Among other things, The Hearth offers an intensive certification program in community storytelling.

“A Place the Soul Once Knew” is the title of chapter 1. Yaconelli probably speaks for many people when he writes: “I have been homesick and didn’t know it. I have been living miles away from my deepest yearnings and not known it. I have been hurrying through my days isolated, fragmented, caught within the jet stream of the anxious world. Only now in the waking stupor do I feel the alienation and loss and, like a sobering drunk, ask, ‘How long was I out?’” He then offers stories and the spiritual practice of storytelling as a remedy.

There are stories of the author taking storytelling into unexpected places, for instance, communities living in the wake of random gun violence. Chapter 9 is titled simply, “Tragedy.” For an excerpt from this chapter, see the link in this review. The healing Yaconelli offers is palpable.

By listening for stories, remembering them, telling them, and honoring them, Yaconelli says that we discover — perhaps again — how to be more deeply human.

There are also keys in the book and in linked internet materials for introducing storytelling practices into your workplace and family life — two places that have become increasingly more lonely as well.