For One More Day (Mitch Albom)

This was a quick read. This was the book that got me into reading when I was fourteen. I didn’t read much between eleven and fourteen. I won’t say I started reading a lot after it, but I found reading more enjoyable.

So going back to this book after a decade is quite interesting. My secondary school had this weekly reading period for either six months or a year, I’m not sure I can’t remember. I believe it was when I was in Secondary Two (when I was fourteen). I believe it happened on Mondays after all the day’s lessons were over and all the kids were given a box of books to choose from to read for the hour and this box changes every month I think. I can’t remember. And I picked up For One More Day. I didn’t finish it in the hour and my god was I so worried that someone else would pick this book the week after.

They didn’t.

I managed to finish it.

Here’s the blurb on the book:

Charley Benetto is a broken man, his life destroyed by alcohol and regret. He loses his job. He leaves his family. He hits rock bottom after discovering he won’t be invited to his only daughter’s wedding. And he decides to take his own life. Charley takes a midnight ride to his small hometown: his final journey. But as he staggers into his old house, he makes an astonishing discovery. His mother – who died eight years earlier – is there, and welcomes Charley home as if nothing had ever happened. What follows is the one seemingly ordinary day so many of us yearn for: a chance to make good with a lost parent, to explain the family secrets and to seek forgiveness.

I was actually quite apprehensive to read this book based on the blurb. Granted I knew I liked it ten years ago (although I had completely forgotten what it was about), but the idea that he’s suddenly talking to someone that died put me off a little, especially since I DNF The First Phonecall From Heaven by the same author which is also a reason why I was hesitant to read it. What if I no longer liked his stories? What does that say about me? How much have I actually changed since the first time I read it? It’s scary. But I’m glad I gave For One More Day a chance.

A little spoiler:
Charley gets into an accident while making his way to his small hometown, so it is my opinion that he’s not actually talking to his mother that had passed away but it is just his hallucinations and deep-rooted knowledge of what went behind the scenes in his family that he just was not willing to face when he was sober. This is a storyline, I’m okay with.

And I see why this book would have had a positive impact on me ten years ago. My relationship with my mother is highly dysfunctional. Or at least, it was/has been dysfunctional for a long time. And this book is about a journey of a fifty plus year-old man, Charley Benetto, who’s going back to his past to relive the moments he had with his mother with her point of view on some things and also how he feels about his past actions towards her. This book is about a relationship between a son and his mother. And I’m on board with it because, at fifty plus years of age, he feels completely worthless to everyone around him when he had never felt that way when his mother was around. And I still do like that aspect of this book.

That’s actually what I love about this book still. I re-read it in about an hour and a half while petting the dog plushie by my side on the bed. It was a good story. I like how Charley looks back at his actions and how he feels about his actions. I like how honest he is about his screw-ups. And I like his mum. I like how much love she is able to manifest. I like how positive she allows herself to be. I like how she lets herself be happy even when the world does not expect her to be that way. I like how independent she is and never once blaming someone else or something else for the situation. I like how she pushes through. She’s an amazing character.

Charley’s dad is an ass. He needs help.

Might I add at eleven-years-old, Charley’s sister, Roberta, was made out to seem really dumb in one of Charley’s flashbacks where they had gone trick-or-treating. Unnecessarily dumb just so that the other lady in the scene could deliver a punchline. It annoyed me.

But my main issue though is the way the book is written. At some point, I did feel like it got a little preachy. Although the book is a lot about how Charley feels and how he atones for his past actions, there’s a lot of preachy messages woven in the dialogues which assumes the reader doesn’t know these lessons already. And as a fourteen-year-old, that might have come off great to me, because I really wouldn’t have known these things at that age. As a teenager, I would have put my problems before my mum’s. I sure did. My main problem was why my mum wouldn’t let me go out with my friends after school. So yes, if a book is telling me my mum has a side that I have not been considering, great. Yes. I think this book, at fourteen, made me realise that sometimes you got to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. At fourteen, that was a great lesson. At twenty-three going twenty-four, with values the book tries to impart already in place I feel like the book is just rude. If the book had just been about Charley having his moment of realization, it would have been better.

Here are a couple of examples:

“Sometimes kids want you to hurt the way they hurt.”

“A child embarrassed by his mother is just a child who hasn’t lived long enough.”

I actually like the second one. But these two are barely on different pages.

“Children forget that sometimes. They think of themselves as a burden instead of a wish granted.”

I wish all the children in the world wouldn’t be grouped like that. And anyway some of them really are burdens……. oops? (let me just specify, children who are self-entitled, rude, and bullies are who I mean as burdens. Whatever. All people are burdens on this earth.)

“It’s amazing the fantasies your mind can put together.”

I had no idea. Thanks.

“Going back to something is harder than you think.”

This one is another quote I like which is said by Charley’s mum when Charley says he’s giving up college for baseball. But the problem is I have no context for why his mum would say this. Sure, we know that his mum did not finish schooling because of the war and after she got married she juggled work while studying nursing and taking care of children. But in no part of the book was it mentioned that she struggled. Maybe it’s because Charley never saw his mum struggle but if he wasn’t even aware of her struggle why would this make him feel bad. If anything, seeing her work through studying and working effortlessly should actually give him more courage and strength to tell his mum that he was making the right decision. So this quote just feels like it’s more for the reader to take note. If there had been more characterisation for the mum, it would have been better.

I do wish we had more of what happened to Charley after his moment with his mother. After his meeting with his mum ends, we go straight to the epilogue to find that he has died from a stroke three years after his meeting with his mum. The only positive is that the epilogue is written in the view of Charley’s daughter, so I’m guessing he must have turned his life around after his meeting with his mum. But like… how? I wish I knew more because Charley isn’t really a character I can root for seeing how selfish he has been for most of his life. By the end of his story, he surely feels sad for how he treated his mum but I don’t see how he’s going to change his life. I don’t actually see how his relationship with his mum is going to affect his relationship with his family. Soooo….

Well.

P.S. the book reads like non-fiction from even before it starts which kind of bothered me but I checked it out, it’s fiction. And now it bothers me the lengths the book went to make it seem like non-fiction.

But needless to say, this is a good story. And I still like the relationship between Charley and his mum. And I’m kind of proud of myself that I liked this book. This book wasn’t bad, it didn’t have severe issues that make me go god I can’t believe I used to like this book. But I’m glad I re-read it and have found a platform to store my opinions about it so now if I ever look back ten years from now, I will know what I liked about the book and what I didn’t.

3/5 because I just think it could have been told better.

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