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Book Reviews

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Tuesdays with Morrie
"Tuesdays With Morrie" is an inspirational recount of a man's life. What did Morrie's message mean to you?

Tuesdays with Morrie
Mitch Albom
Doubleday, $19.95

Review by Stephanie Bowen

He wasn't a superstar athlete, a successful entrepreneur or a famous actor. He was not a household name. His only claim to fame was an appearance on Nightline. But ask anyone who knew him and they'll likely tell you that Morrie Schwartz made more of an impression on them then Michael Jordan, Bill Gates and Jodie Foster combined.

"Tuesdays with Morrie" (TWM) is more than just a dying man's last words. It is an inspirational recount of a man's life -- a man whose passion for the human spirit has continued to live long after his last breath.

You could say there are two stories within TWM. One is the story of a man and a disease. The other is the story of a professor of social psychology who has come to understand that life's complexities can be broken down into simple truths.

This book was not planned; it came about after Mitch Albom, by chance, saw his old professor on ABC's Nightline being interviewed by Ted Koppel about what it was like to be dying of ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gherig's disease. Mitch had lost track of his Brandeis University professor and college mentor shortly after he graduated and settled in Detroit as a sports writer.

Albom was surprised and saddened to learn that Morrie was dying and quickly got in touch with his old professor. What started as a reunion of old friends turned into the project of a lifetime.

Mitch and Morrie subsequently spent the next sixteen Tuesdays together exploring many of life's fundamental issues -- family, marriage, aging and culture to name a few. Morrie was giving his last lecture while Mitch was writing his final thesis.

Take aging -- an issue many struggle with. As his disease progresses, Morrie finds himself dealing with aging in a more concentrated way than most. When Mitch asks him how he is able to refrain from being jealous of the young, Morrie says, "It's like going back to being a child again. Someone to bathe you. Someone to lift you. Someone to wipe you. We all know how to be a child. It's inside all of us. For me it's just remembering how to enjoy it." With wonderful insight, Morrie continues, "We all yearn in some way to return to those days when we were completely taken care of -- unconditional love, unconditional caring. Most of us didn't get enough." Now if that isn't getting the most of an unfortunate situation, I don't know what is!

But aging for most isn't about a rapidly degenerative disease like ALS. Most of us face aging on our 30th, 40th and 50th birthdays -- when we yearn for the carefree days of youth. Morrie has something to say about those who want to be young again. He says that's a reflection of a life that hasn't found meaning. He says if you've found meaning you don't want to go back, and you can appreciate the 23 year old in you, the 35 year old and the 62 year old.

Some of Morrie's greatest insights are his views on how our culture plays into our lives. He spent his life creating his own culture, listening to his heart and doing what was right for him, versus what was right by society's standards. One problem he sees is that we tend to see each other as dissimilar rather than alike. We are taught to be independent and unique, but in reality we all have the same needs. He emphasizes investment in people, not things. When all is said and done, we will be remembered not by our bank accounts or stock portfolios, but by the time we spent listening to a friend or helping a family member.

When I first started reading TWM I immediately thought of Maya Angelou's "Won't Take Nothing for my Journey Now". Angelou has a way of tapping into life's biggest questions with such clarity and understanding you almost think she was sent by a higher power to help guide lost souls. While her poetic prose sweep you away, Morrie's simple wisdom has the same affect.

Morrie speaks to every person because he is every person. He has led a simple yet meaningful life that inspires you to live yours to the fullest. Perhaps his story is more powerful because you're not only taking in his wisdom, but you are experiencing his death. In his words, he is fortunate enough to know he is dying, to take stock of his life as it comes to an end. He handles this with bravery and compassion, and when the final moment comes you feel as though you've lost a dear friend.

I had the pleasure of hearing Albom speak, and took the opportunity to ask him how his time with Morrie had changed his everyday life. In a true testament to his mentor, Albom's life has changed dramatically. He spends more time with his wife, takes more time off work and has restructured his work regime. He flies overseas to visit his family more often. In short, he is investing in the people in his life that he cares about most. He says he faces life with less fear than he did before, knowing that life only comes around once and somehow things will work out. It is clear he is a more settled person and possesses a true sense of meaning.

Clearly, Morrie's class is a success.

Stephanie Bowen has worked for CNN for over seven years in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Los Angeles. She is currently exploring the world of creative writing at UCLA and participates in a monthly book group.

M O R E     R E V I E W S





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