I wouldn't say that I was excited to read this book. It's one that sat on my bookshelf for a few months, maybe years. My thought was that if it's goinI wouldn't say that I was excited to read this book. It's one that sat on my bookshelf for a few months, maybe years. My thought was that if it's going to be on my shelf - I should read it, otherwise get rid of it. And since it was right around New Years I thought it might be appropriate to read something motivational.
To be honest, I was not really engaged with this book at he start, the middle, or the end. I really like listening/watching Les Brown's speeches - they are fantastic! His writing was not. Some of the stories in the book I had heard before in his speeches - but the book seemed to be less entertaining, less engaging, and I was just not able to connect with it like I had expected I would and like I'm able to connect with his speeches.
As I read the book, a lot of it seemed to be repetitive. "Go after your dreams!" "Work hard!" - just a lot of self-help fluff. It just fell flat. Reading the words just seemed like I was reading a corny self-help book from the 90's.... which I was.
There were some interesting points. I didn't realize that he had already served as an Ohio senator prior to being homeless and living in his office building. That part did hit me - he had some money and some good stuff going and he gave it all up, even his home, to go for his dream. That takes guts; that's cool - and maybe irresponsible.
As I went back through and wrote down the quotes I had noted while reading, I really liked them all. The quotes by themselves, out of context, almost seemed more motivational or engaging than when i was reading the book. All in all, I won't read another Les Brown book, I will keep listening to his speeches....more
While writing this novel Franzen struggled with the purpose of writing fiction. I think the purpose of reading fiction is that it forces you to learnWhile writing this novel Franzen struggled with the purpose of writing fiction. I think the purpose of reading fiction is that it forces you to learn about yourself. Especially this type of story. You can put yourself in the situations the author puts the characters in and think about how you would react or what you like or dislike about how the character handles it. Also, you see how your mind changes about things as you find out more information - don't be so quick to judge things at face value.
In this story there were three grown children and two aging parents forming a dysfunctional family unit. As it goes, the children each try to figure out who they are. Who they are in terms of careers, in terms of their spouse, in terms of finances, sexuality - all of it. They are also figuring out how they should be interacting with each other, as siblings as well as how they should relate to their parents. And what do those relationships mean. Are they meaningful at all?
For me, that's the crux of it - what do our relationship with our families mean as we all grow up, move on, get married and get older? As we start to accumulate baggage and learn that we have problems. As we become a little less innocent than when we were kids. As our parents start to decline. Do those relationship matter?
I often look forward to getting older. I have a bit of a utopian vision in my head of how that will be. Being an old man in a rocking chair on a summer evening with my wife of decades by my side - we're both still smiling and looking at each other in that special way and our grandchildren are around playing. One thing this book did was snap me back to what could be a reality of getting older. And probably to at least some extent is true for almost every aging person - health problems, mental problems, regret, and just the drudgery of life weighing on you.
For the three grown kids in the novel - they are just making their path - as we all are. Standing back we can see the mistakes they are making - and you can relate to them because you've made mistakes, too. Their relationships to each other and their parents are strained and you want them to see the errors of their ways and just be a little nicer to each other and a little nicer to their parents.
In reading this complex story, there's some simple lessons to take away. Be nice to your siblings. Care for your parents as they age. Enjoy those relationships now before time takes it's toll. Build those relationships now so that when time does take it's toll you have a loving family around you to help you through it.
Favorite passage: "And when the event, the big change in your life, is simply an insight - isn't that a strange thing? That absolutely nothing changes except that you see things differently and you're less fearful and less anxious and generally stronger as a result: isn't it amazing that a completely invisible thing in your head can feel realer than anything you've experienced before? You see things more clearly and you know that you're seeing them more clearly. And it comes to you that this is what it means to love life, this is all anybody who talks seriously about God is ever talking about. Moments like this."...more