March 2017 – For One More Day by Mitch Albom
blog by Cindy Bushey
It appears that finding a niche is a laudable goal for creative people. Whatever your product, if you find that perfect niche, success is yours. Author Mitch Albom evidently has found his. His successful novels deal with death and what lies beyond. Some might call them philosophical; some would choose psychological as the genre. Whatever the name, once you have read two of his books, you know anything he writes will involve sentimental manipulation, lots of emotion, and tears for those so inclined. Not everyone appreciates this style of writing, and Zion’s readers were no different.
For March, we read For One More Day which presents the life of self-involved Chick Benetto who has managed to alienate himself from his family, become alcohol dependent, and finally hit rock bottom. When his daughter fails to invite him to her wedding, he decides to end it all. There was some debate among our readers as to whether Chick’s leap from his hometown water tower after an automobile crash was actual or a hallucination. Either way, the author used it as a vehicle to drop Chick into a transition area between this life and the next where he had the opportunity to spend a day with his mother. He comes to the realization that he never afforded her the respect she deserved for being the sustaining presence in his life. Instead he had always tried to ingratiate himself with his father even, maybe especially, after his parents divorced. His father valued Chick only if he was pursuing a life in baseball, and Chick focused on that to the exclusion of anyone and anything else whenever he could. Chick is the poster child for selfishness and emotional immaturity and altogether an unlikable protagonist. Also, the whole baseball thing got a little old for some readers.
Chick’s mother, Posey, on the other hand emerges as a thoroughly likable, admirable woman who was willing to do whatever it took to raise and support her children. According to our readers, her only major flaw was her failure to whip Chick into shape. However, as is often the case in real life divorces, the parent who is absent is idolized and idealized by the child while the parent who is present must bear the blame and emotional upset of the child.
The most attractive part of the novel, which had its inspiration in the author’s relationship with his mother and included events (and pictures) from his own life, was the idea of being able to spend another day with a loved one who had passed. Who wouldn’t give a lot to be able to say things that hadn’t been said, explain things that were said, or just hear stories from the past that the deceased had never shared? An opportunity like that resonated with all our readers, and we shared memories of loved ones and learned more about group members’ lives. Many of us would enjoy having an adult conversation with a grandparent who knew us only as a child. The ability to work out relationships and bring a sense of closure would be a treasure.
It is very interesting that the author, who was a sports writer before venturing into fiction, writes this type of book which our male readers classified as “chick lit”. He tells the story in the third person, and readers were surprised to discover the identity of the narrator at the end. Although it reminded one reader of Peyton Place with its stereotypical New England divorcee while another reader saw echoes of Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future during Chick’s day with his mother, the author skillfully framed the story in very readable prose at a length that was exactly sufficient. Most of our readers agreed any more would have been too long for the topic. Mr. Albom knows how to write, clutch at the reader’s heart strings, and produce an easy and quick read. Our readers voted at the outset of our meeting in an experiment to see whether we would be swayed in our opinions by the discussion. Six gave it one thumb up, and seven remained neutral. After the discussion, the results were the same. For One More Day has an interesting premise, and if it inspires a reader to an appreciation of a loved one and open communication, then it has gone beyond its entertainment niche.