Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I read this because a colleague wants us to teach it to sophomores this school year. She, a Jodi Picoult fan, loved it. I guess if you like that kind of stuff it’s a great book. I found it rather shallow, filled with platitudes and hollow appeals to pathos that never felt fully fleshed out. (Like Picoult’s writing.) You want to lead the reader to a mind-altering aphorism, that’s fine, but ending the chapter there and changing gears is like pushing somebody to the edge of a cliff and not watching to see if he falls.
Albom apparently flew from Detroit to New Hampshire every Tuesday for a few months to visit Morrie. Albom, at the time, was a sports writer who was out of work because of a strike at the Detroit newspaper. Anyway, he spent all that time and money flying back and forth, but his “interviews” with Morrie are extremely short and hardly seem to scratch the surface of what’s available. “Why?” I kept asking. “Why do you believe this? What happened in your life, or what is your thought process now, near death, that makes you believe this way?” Perhaps Albom was too close to his subject to press him. Perhaps, as a sports writer, he simply didn’t know how to ask deeper questions. (I used to work as a newspaper reporter, so I know something about this.)
The message here is a good one, delivered in a few easy bite-size servings that anyone can digest. Will inner-city sophomores be able to understand it? Yes. Will they complain that we’re once again making them read a sad book where somebody dies at the end? Oh yeah. I would prefer to teach “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” myself.
Ultimately, I came away feeling like I knew more about Albom than I did about Morrie. Maybe that was the intent, to show how Morrie changed his former student’s life. Unfortunately, Morrie was the more interesting character and I wanted to know more about him and his philosophical journey through life.
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