Memoir

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Biography
Imprint: Anchor Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York
ISBN: 0-307-27563-9

Mitchell Albom, known to the world and in the book, Tuesdays with Morrie, as Mitch Albom, is a sports journalist and radio broadcaster turned novelist. He has written many books related to sports, and fiction and nonfiction novels. He is most famous for his books Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

Morrie Schwartz is a professor in Brandeis University and Mitch Albom is his newly graduated student, a favourite student. After graduation, Mitch is engrossed in his own life and loses contact with his “coach.” Years later, when a successful Mitch hits a road block in his work field and is made to sit at home due to worker union strike, he sees his coach on a national TV show. Morrie is diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and is sure to die soon. Shocked to see his professor in such condition, Mitch reaches out to him. Even after no communication since the graduation day, Morrie welcomes Mitch as though nothing has changed. They make it a habit of meeting every Tuesday so that Morrie can teach Mitch about different aspects of life because no one can explain life better than a dying man. Mitch, with Morrie’s approval, records their “classes.” Each Tuesday, Mitch finds his professor in a more deteriorated condition. Mitch worries but Morrie wants to serenely die. ALS consumes Morrie’s body completely and he knows that he will die at any moment. As per his wish, he serenely passes away when his family is under the same roof. After Morrie’s death, Mitch publishes Tuesdays with Morrie, which the old professor always called “the last thesis” of his favourite student.

Tuesdays with Morrie is not a self-help book. It is a book that imparts an old dying man’s knowledge about life to others. It is not preaching kind, but tells you from the view point of a person who had been there, done that. If it helps, you can imagine Morrie as Arthur in the movie, The Holiday. A dying man has courage to make fun of everything, even death. By the time you near the end of the book, your heart will be heavy, but you will wish it never ends. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lives. Read the book to know what “the last thesis” has to offer to any soul that is lost in the daily humdrum.

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The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Political Memoir
Imprint: Crown Publishers, New York
ISBN: 978-0-307-38209-2

Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America. He was a Senator at the time of this book’s release. He has penned few other books apart from this.

The Audacity of Hope is about Obama’s hope to make America great again, the same line which is used as slogan in this time’s presidential elections. In this book, he tries to convey all his dreams for a better USA than it is now.

To read this book, you need to be aware of the current scenario as well as history of politics of the USA. Otherwise, you have to hold this book in one hand and use the other hand to constantly search on Google for the historical figures that are named often. Not just historical, even the recent ones. Each chapter starts with a positive note about President Obama’s experience before and after he was elected as the President of the USA. But soon the whole chapter turns into a comparison between Democrats and Republicans, a comparison between Obama and Bush. Irrespective of what the chapter is about, it all boils down to comparison. I agree this is a political memoir, but it is not necessary to compare and make it a Democrat campaign. He could have written more about his experiences than comparing with Republicans.

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama is a disappointment. If you pick this book, then be prepared to be bored. It is okay if you are a political buff.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Review by Shwetha H S

Genre: Beat generation, nonfiction, memoir
Imprint: Penguin Modern Classics
ISBN: 978-0-141-18267-4

On the Road is Jack Kerouac’s novel that tells you about the road trip that Salvatore Paradise takes along with Dean Moriarty across the country of USA. Jack Kerouac belongs to the beat generation, the generation that prized the life of leaving on one’s own terms rather than by society norms. On the Road is the story of the author himself but the names of the characters in the story are changed. Jack Kerouac becomes Salvatore (Sal) Paradise and Neal Cassady becomes Dean Moriarty.

The book is in five parts. The first part sees Sal meeting Dean, not liking him much at first and later missing him and going off on a cross-country hitchhiking trip from New York to Denver to meet the later. Sal is a writer and Dean is a car thief. Sal sees Dean and Carlo Marx, a common friend, get high and talk their hearts out. Dean is in the process of divorcing his first wife Marylou and marrying Camille. Sal leaves Dean and others, and goes to San Francisco to be with his childhood friend, Remi, and his wife, Lee Ann. Lee married Remi thinking he is a wealthy man, but he is a night watchman at a sailors’ camp. He gets Sal a similar job. Both rob things from others to make a better living, but eventually blow things up. On his way back to New York, Sal meets Terry, a Mexican girl who has left her harassing husband and come out with her child. Sal and Terry fall in love and stay together for some time, but he eventually leaves her and comes back to New York. Part two shows what happened a year later. Dean, Marylou and Ed Dunkel come to pick Sal from his relatives’ place in Virginia, and go off again on a road trip to New Orleans and to San Francisco. Dean has left Camille with his new born daughter and come back to Marylou. Ed Dunkel is a lost soul. On this road trip, Dean comes up with creepy things making Sal uneasy. Once they reach San Francisco, Dean leaves Sal and Marylou stranded without money and food, and goes back to Camille. Disheartened with both Dean and Marylou, Sal leaves them and comes back to New York. Part three sees Sal going in search of Dean again a year after leaving him. Sal misses Dean and the excited life that comes along with the later. By then, Marylou is married to someone else. Seeing Sal with Dean, Camille is assured that the duo will again go away leaving her pregnant with the second child and to look after the first one, and she throws Dean and Sal out of their house. They both decide to go to Italy after reaching New York. On the way, Dean creates havoc and steals many cars for the sake of having fun. Sal and Dean quarrel for the first time. After reaching New York, Dean meets Inez and decides to marry her after he divorces Camille. Fourth part has Sal, Dean and Stan driving to Mexico to start a new life. The usual dope and girl chasing happens. Sal falls sick due to dysentery. Dean leaves him with Stan in that condition because his divorce from Camille came through and he is in a hurry to marry Inez and give her a child. Sal starts to hate Dean. Part five shows Sal falling in love with Laura, and Dean coming into their lives briefly and exiting again.

On the Road is not a story, but is an experience. It is not about bromance but about brotherhood. Sal wants to live an excitement filled life and thinks Dean has and can provide him one. Dean is a car thief who steals cars for fun, but likes to make a living in a decent way. Marylou, Camille and Inez are Dean’s wives. Of all of them, he loved Marylou more and keeps going back to her. Sal knows that Dean is a prick but still loves his company. Since the characters are the real life ones, there is not much of a character development.

This book gives a lot of insight about the beat generation. This generation lived as if there was no tomorrow. Work less, party hard. Dopes, sex, road trips, cars, parties and booze are what made that generation happy. The book is written is simple language using simple narration. It is not quite what I expected, but it did not disappoint me either. The experiences of Sal on the road with four trips are overwhelming and the emotions he goes through are a lesson for life. I might recommend it to the readers who want to read something on the road trips.

In the cover picture of the book, you see Jack Kerouac (Sal Paradise) on the left and Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty) on the right.

Twisting My Kaleidoscope by Shannon Love

Twisting My Kaleidoscope by Shannon Love

Review by Shwetha H S

What happens when a loving mother, wife and friend becomes psychotic? What happens to her doting family? How do her friends and extended family deal with this situation? How long do they have to suffer with a lunatic female who doesn’t realize that she is losing her mind?

Shannon Love is an expat residing in Beijing along with her husband Charles and three children. She has many friends in the expat community. They all have been living out of USA for so long that Beijing is their home now. An annual medical check up brings out reports about Shannon’s abnormal heart rates. Though her health is perfect, concerns about her heart don’t fade away. One thing leading to another, Shannon slowly develops a mental condition in which she imagines situations which are not true and listens to voices inside her head. Her husband’s company, unable to risk the health of expats, deports her for a time being to her home town in USA. She gets hospitalized to improve her condition. When things take a turn for betterment, they come back to Beijing. But is she cured completely? Does her psychosis relapse? What does her close circle of people do?

Shannon Love’s memoir is about her life with a psychotic condition and how her family and friends dealt with it. Her intention behind writing Twisting My Kaleidoscope is to let others know what a psychosis patient goes through and what the patient’s family goes through. As she has mentioned in the book, she has altered the events and situations in the narration to keep certain people out of the book due to privacy reasons. Apart from that, it is good book for one time read and is actually entertaining.