Monday, June 26, 2006
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
The story of a college professor, Morris Schwartz, sharing some last lessons about life with one of his favorite former students as Morrie dies of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.
Everybody's read this book and there may not be much to add, but I have a lot to say. I expected to hate this book. I figured it would be heart-tugging sap and, in general, books involving terminal illness do not appeal to me in the slightest. Reading for a good weep is simply not an indulgence of mine; I prefer laughter to tears. However, my husband placed a request, so to speak. He knows I'm always watching for a number of titles at any given moment; and I just happened to locate a copy in our library's sale corner shortly after he mentioned that the book was recommended by someone at work. For a quarter, I snatched up the book and brought it to my husband. That was last year. He gobbled it up and set it down on the shelf in our bedroom, where it stayed. I tiptoed around it, occasionally thinking, "Maybe I should read it," and then countering with a "Nah, not my thing," or "Maybe later."
Since I seem to be a bit bogged down in my reading - about a third of the way into three different books - the size of this book caught my eye. Unlikely that I'd take any interest in it, I thought, but the book was at eye level at the right moment. I cracked it open and read a few pages, sat down on the bed to read a few more . . . and, then I didn't stop until about halfway. At that point I decided I'd better get off my rear and move the laundry; but the next time I picked the book up I didn't put it down. Morrie's words were addictive in both their impact and simplicity. My favorite quote:
"There's a big confusion in this country over what we want versus what we need," Morrie said. "You need food, you want a chocolate sundae. You have to be honest with yourself. You don't need the latest sports car, you don't need the biggest house."
Such words fly in the face of the American Dream and I'm sure that rubs a few people the wrong way. Then again, some reviewers at Amazon say Tuesdays with Morrie is full of platitudes, that it's self-indulgent. That's both a criticism of Morrie's thoughts and the writing; and they're missing the point. Watching someone you care deeply for deteriorate rapidly is a process that makes one reflect. I know; I've been there. With a person as loving and kind as Morrie telling you what he's learned, how could you not think about his words and apply them to your own life? I only wish my father had been able to speak during his last days; he would have undoubtedly shared some last bits of wisdom. Personally, I thought the writing was appropriately blunt and suitably respectful without going overboard on the mush factor, although one couldn't help but feel a tug at the end. Morrie did die, after all.
This book also just happened to remind me of a book I enjoyed as a child, Mister God, This is Anna. Like Tuesdays with Morrie, Mr. God, This is Anna is full of the wisdom of someone who is about to die. Anna, however, didn't realize she was going to die, and at a very young age - as in 5 or 6 years of age. But, she was unusually wise for a small child. Somewhere around here, I should still have my copy. I'm that bad about hanging onto books.
Thumbs up for Tuesdays with Morrie. But, I can't see how anyone could imagine who we'll meet in heaven, so I'll skip the next book. Sounds sappy to me.