I have read Mitch Albom before, I recall Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven, two of his more popular books, both as heart-tugging and tear-eliciting. For One More Day, however, furnished me with a new perspective. This is a book that reaches across the the divide between life and death and affords one man one more chance at reconciliation. It sinks into the heart of what it means to love someone unconditionally, and what it means to forgive yourself and another.
For One More Day is the story of a “cup of coffee” professional ball player and his strained relationship with his mother, his adoration of his father and the tumult of their lives as a family unit that fractures into pieces. Charles “Chick” Benetto is revealed to us in a baseball field where he shares his deepest secrets, his guilt, his fears, his joys, his pride and his shame.
Bared for us in this novel is the life of a mother, Chick’s mother, detailed with absolute sensitivity by Albom, the life of a divorcée in the mid-60s in suburban America. We see firsthand how a woman must survive to preserve her sense of self, while shielding her children from a cruel world that is quick to judge and punish her for that which is not her fault. We see how people view a woman after her marriage falls apart, how the world judges her differently than her male counterpart potentially just as responsible for the failure of the marriage. We see how this woman saddles all her strength onto one horse and then barrels through life with all her strength intact. She is a force to be reckoned with at her best, and in her darkest times, she is still tender and loving and forgiving. She wants the best for her children, and like many mothers the world over, she will stop at nothing to achieve just that, even when they break her heart and shatter what she has put blood, sweat and tears into building for them. Such is the tenderness of a mother, such is her strength that the well-being of her children becomes the sole reason for her living. And many children, much to the chagrin of mothers everywhere, do not understand this, but they will, one day. To my own momma, who is inevitably smiling as she reads this (or tearing up first, and then smiling!), I love you, and I understand you, and I appreciate you, even when it does not seem like it.
With eye-stinging scenarios where mother and son are afforded last moments hovering between life and death to say to each other what they could not say in life, Albom paints the seamless tale of a love that defies the end of a life to still reign strong. He paints with an experienced and swift wrist the picture of a man so weighed down by life that no redemption can seem to save him. And in much the same stroke, Albom paints the picture of a mother’s love that comes and cradles the brokenness of her child, and brings him back to a place where he can forgive himself. The tight rope between love and betrayal is tested, the fine line between selfishness and selflessness is frayed even more, the thin rays of hope that exist amidst a life of shame and guilt and bitterness and anger turn into blinding promise that saves even those of us who believe we are too wretched to be worthy of the saving. Through this book, dear reader, we understand the value of a second chance and the value of missed opportunities and lost time. We understand with absolute heaving weight, the value of life in its entirety and how loving people unconditionally can bridge barriers and heal even the most rotten of wounds.
For One More Day is a quick read, a few uninterrupted hours at most, but a read that will take you to a place where you will see the relationships in your own life with entirely new lenses. A place where you will appreciate that the time you have with the ones you love is always worth more than financial or career-related opportunities that can be taken away from you when this life ends. And even though this book deals with the running thread of death, it stays that hopelessness that many feel upon death’s arrival, and in its stead reveals the promise of times full of love to carry us through to whatever comes next. With all its brevity of a 197 pages, this book celebrates a mother’s untethered love, and a child’s need to be reminded of this to piece together his life.
Do yourself a favour, if your heart is closed to the ones you love or even if it is wide open, pick this book up, grab a handful of tissues and read. Sometimes, in the letting go, we are freed.
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