Reviews and perspective on Satisfaction Guaranteed: In Chicago

Forward from Satisfaction Guaranteed:

In Chicago by Jim Henson

There is an ongoing controversy about memoirs among literary folks who like to think about such things.   One pole of the controversy says, "If you are not exceptional, or exceptional things have not happened in your life, don't bother to write a memoir."  The other pole would say, "Every life is extraordinary and worth examining."  As with most things in life, there is an element of truth in each of these bookends' and the absolute truth?  Probably somewhere in between.

Jim Henson's new memoir illustrates this controversy quite clearly: the elements of this stage of his life are significantly less than extraordinary.   A guy who grew up in rural Oregon goes to graduate school in Chicago and meets head on Sandburg's

"...Stormy, husky, brawling,

City of the Big Shoulders. . ."

Big deal.  Here we also meet a guy who couldn't decide if his life's work was to preach to others or try to make a difference in the world, one client at a time.  Lots of folks have struggled with that decision.  Not much extraordinary about that.  Two things, lack of linguistic aptitude for ancient Greek and getting clear about his values, helped Jim make his decision.  Is this any different from would-be architects who discover their lack of aptitude for advanced physics along with a view of the world that sees systems as more important than discrete buildings and so became urban planners instead?  Probably not.

So we are left with the question of why bother to read this memoir?  What makes it worth our time?  One reason is that it gives us a unique, on-the-ground view of Chicago during the late 60's, that unique time of heightened racial and political strife and transformation. Another, and perhaps more compelling reason to read this memoir, is the lens Jim brings to the ordinary in each person's life, a lens of humor, of common sense untroubled by psychoanalytic theory, of the meaning of the ordinary in our lives.  He shows us how to laugh and cry and connect with each other over the big things: Martin Luther King's death and the birth of one's first child, and the small things: flowers and wine and the thrill of Goodwill bargains.  We've each experienced them all and we are different and, one would hope, better because of these experiences.  Jim shows us one way to make sense of that change, through finding the meaning in our ordinary and our day-to-day.

C. S. Lewis says, "We read to know we are not alone."  This memoir encourages us to look lightly at our past lives, and by extension, our current lives. To reflect on the everyday happenings and to tie them to the larger world, laugh at the absurdity of it all, while, as Jim says in his benediction, sharing some love, making a difference, and flying on the wings of an eagle. We are not alone, in our ordinariness and in our greatness, and this memoir helps us to see that.


Mary Lee Fitzsimmons, PhD

Executive Director of One World Health Centers (retired)


Satisfaction Guaranteed: in Chicago is full of humor, wisdom and very entertaining.  Jim Henson has mastered the art of story telling, this book will draw you in and keep your attention.  The personal stories about his life  will have you laughing and at times make you want to re-read that last sentence!  Underneath the humor you will also discover a truly caring man who's mission is to help others as he continues his journey.  This book will take you on a small portion of that journey that is guaranteed to leave you wanting more.   Vicki


RE: Review and impression of Jim Henson's books

A delightful compendium of life stories of Jim's work as a social worker. Both books are like eating popcorn as I read one captivating experience after another. The books are a humorous excursion into the wilds of human consciousness; both bizarre and fascinating. Jim has shared with us his life's work that enriched life as a skilled listener and observer in the laboratory of truth seeking. The vignettes in these books are unique, enjoyable and heartwarming.

Martin Hughey, Retired Medical Device Quality Engineer


RE: Satisfaction Guaranteed: in Chicago. Jim's storytelling evoked many great memories for me of our time together in Chicago.

He was regular at my L shop, though many of the people and places he recalls have changed. Jerry Kaiser, Mister Flower