Before I delve into what I want to say about the book, I have to confess something. I’ve read a lot of books; I’ve been reading since as long as I can remember. Therefore, I thought that “reviewing” books would be a piece of cake. I thought there’s only so many things that I could say about a book. Turns out I was wrong. I love reading books, I love discussing them with anyone who cares to listen (read: very few people), but I can’t review them in the sense that the word “review” is used. I spent a long time thinking about what I should and shouldn’t write, how much I should give away, whether I should or should not criticize. I tried adopting a particular style of reviewing; basically, I just made myself write in a most non-me way. And I just wasn’t happy reading it. Finally, I just decided to go with the flow. I talked about the points that I felt about, not the points which would necessarily make a balanced review. This isn’t about creating a perfect book review, it’s about what I love in the books that I read. So, here goes.
Charley Benetto is a broken man, his life destroyed by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits rock bottom after discovering that he won’t be invited to his only daughter’s wedding. And he decides to take his own life.
Charley takes a midnight ride to his small hometown: his final journey. But as he staggers into his old house, he makes an astonishing discovery. His mother – who died eight years earlier – is there, and welcomes Charley home as if nothing had ever happened.
What follows is the one seemingly ordinary day so many of use yearn for: a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets and to seek forgiveness.
The book is typical of Mitch Albom, sweet and sad at the same time.
Throughout his childhood, Charley is constantly asked to choose between his parents, and he chooses the one whom he’s afraid of losing; his father. Or at least, he yearns to gain acceptance from his emotionally distant father, who is interested only in Charley’s career as a baseball player. His mother, on the other hand, values education more, and is thrilled to see him going to college.
I could say that this book touched me emotionally. Sure, I loved some parts of the book. I really admired Chick’s mother, Pauline (or Posey, as she was nicknamed)and her sunny disposition. I admired her strength in bringing up her children alone and the way she fights the stigma associated with being a divorced woman.
But somewhere down the line, the book felt as if it was preaching to me. I prefer reading about people who pick up the pieces of their lives on their own. Of course, it doesn’t mean that taking help is wrong. It’s just that I have trouble believing in life-altering surreal experiences. Maybe sometimes, knowing about past secrets can make you realise the value of your present life. But I didn’t find Chick to be the kind of man who had the strength to do that. I really couldn’t connect to him. The book presented a very simplified version of right and wrong.
The secondary ideas of the book resonated better with me. The way in which the society looked at divorce and divorcees, especially the women, ringed true. I appreciated Posey, who refused to be shown any pity. The incident when she disposed the food “handed out” to them by nuns stands as stark example.
I wonder whether the situation has changed for divorcees. In India, especially, divorce is still a dirty word, and the blame falls on women nearly in all the cases. Retaining the sanctity of marriage is considered to be the responsibility of the woman alone. They are supposed to “make it work” whatever the situation is.
Among all, one issue troubled me the most. Pauline, a nurse, was fired from her job, because she complained against sexual harassment. The reason stated was that she was young, pretty, single and therefore, a distraction to male doctors; the same reasons for which she was harassed in the first place. It implies that the only reason that she hadn’t been sexually harassed before was the fact that she was married, as the other two reasons, “young and pretty” , applied to her before the divorce too. It implies that women always need to be defined in context to a man who will “protect” them. I can’t begin to tell how much that bothers me.
For One More Day isn’t going to be a favourite. It is not the first book that talks about the unfairness of the society towards divorce and women. And yet, I find myself appreciating the book for raising these issues.
And a really small thing; I loved that she wrote little notes to her son (because I’m a note-writer myself!).