Thursday, November 09, 2006
I'm not exactly a fan of Mitch Albom's books. Frankly, I'm not a fan of 'soul-enriching' books, most of the time they feel fake, which, admittedly, Mitch Albom doesn't really do, but I prefer books that reach your heart without admitting that that's what they're trying to do. Am I making any sense?
Anyway, Mitch Albom's latest offering is only in hardcover for now, so unless you're that desperate for a tender, heartwarming moment, and I mean moment (I finished it in less that two hours), you probably wouldn't want to shell out RM68.90. I performed the same maneuver that I did on Khairul years ago when Lyra's Oxford came out- I let him buy it. The victim this time was a particular girl in college who happens to enjoy these soul-reaching books (she also lent me Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, which I will also be reviewing soon). The verdict? It's nothing special, really, not if you've read 'Five People You Meet In Heaven' and 'Tuesdays With Morrie', but I might just buy the paperback version for my mother's next birthday. (through Amazon, probably, since by her next birthday, I'll be halfway across the globe)
The premise is simple- it's about a man who screwed up in life, who wants to end it, and just as he is about to, he meets his mother. The catch is, his mother died years ago. Creepy? Well, the story opens by admitting that 'This is a ghost story, but then, every family is a ghost story', a statement which echoes till the end of the book of a subconscious truth in most of today's families. Despite our best efforts, we often end up estranged from our parents, allowing them to fade away like ghosts into our past.
The central idea or message of the story is the power of a mother's love, and the sacrifices that you don't see happening in front of you. Littered throughout the narrative are occasional notes by the storyteller, divided into 'Times When My Mother Stood Up For Me', and 'Times When I Did Not Stand Up For My Mother'. And there are occasional notes from the mother herself to him, on his first day of school, on the day of his marriage, basically at turning points in their life. It is explained that his mother had a habit of slipping him notes, most of the time because she was afraid she might miss saying something whenever they were together, and she wanted him to know all these things. These breaks from the narrative serve to create a more personal experience, and admittedly, despite not expecting to be impressed after reading '5 People You Meet In Heaven', there were moments when I felt moved enough to shed tears.
However, characteristic of Albom's writing is that, as usual, it's short. None of the Albom books are long, and to some of you, you might say that therein lies the beauty- that he can capture your hearts with so little pages. And this was admittedly true with his previous works. Personally, however, I found this one to fall slightly short on that mark. It was short, and I felt that it could have enraptured me more if it had only been slightly longer. Despite the effectiveness of the author's technique, there is a sense of isolation that the reader feels at times, being a mere passenger. This book doesn't draw you in and place you into the main character's shoes as well as the previous books. And while you I did, as I said before, shed tears, they were really minimal. To sum it up- the book could have been more moving if there were just a bit more longer.
The characters are mostly typical- the down on his luck man is the down on his luck man. At the beginning of the story his is self-destructive. Part of the story's intrigue is finding out where he messed up, and why he did. However if that is what the author intended to achieve, part of that magic is lost by the plainness of Chick (the main character's name). It's not that you don't feel any sympathy for him, it's just that he's nothing you've never seen before. The mother is the loving mother, as usual. I just feel that it could have been a much more atypical story if the mother had appeared to be more harsh, so that the idea could be driven across with more power.
I hope all this doesn't make you doubt this book, though. Like I said, it still holds power over you. There is a twist waiting at the end of the book, and it's not a glaringly obvious one that you can see coming from a mile away. That in itself is a feat that is hard to achieve nowadays when most twists have been seen before.
So pick up this book. It's well worth the read. I know some people don't believe in the intensity of a mother's love anymore, I mean, today we are so quick to judge- if they bar us from something, our automatic assumption is that they don't love us. This book will make you believe. I have another friend in college who finds it derogative if you tell someone 'But your mother still loves you!' And I used to agree with her, considering it's usually used to tell a person that 'No one else could possibly love you.'
Now I think, no, it's not derogative to have your mother love you. I love my mother, and the book reminded me of why. Because sometimes, you know, you tend to forget.
7 out of 10.
at 8:52 AM