I came across the writer Mitch Albom because of a famous scam that made rounds on social media of how a person would get twelve books in return for the one book she/he gifts to a stranger during Christmas time. ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ was that one book one of my acquaintances got in return for the one book she purchased, which is actually something because I discovered later that there were people who received none. Anyway, due to the fact that I never had the privilege of ever having wonderful teachers who changed the way I viewed life (not that I want to change since the view is looking pretty good from my point right now), I did not add it to my reading list straightaway. I was, however, fascinated by the title of another one of his books ‘The five people you meet in heaven’ and picked it up right away and for the first time, did not mind being preached to about life because of how it was presented. A Google search on ‘Writers like Nicholas Sparks’ led me back to Mitch Albom and I have to say that apart from the fact that both of them are brilliant writers who can express the different kinds of love with great passion, they are unlike each other in their narration styles. And that’s actually a good thing even though I’m a Sparks fanatic! The Mitch Albom novel that blew my mind was ‘The timekeeper’ even though I was more excited about ‘The first phone call from heaven’ which was good too.
So, I begin my review of ‘For one more day’. First off, like other novels of his, Mitch Albom has a way with writing sentences that are ready-made quotes material. The novel is about losing one’s mother and normally, I prefer romantic tragedies which is why I kept postponing reading this book and blaming it on busy schedules to calm my soul but I knew I would find my way back and I finally did. The story begins from the author’s view point and I really enjoy when the writer is the character in the story because I feel it is quite endearing. And then, voila, the story is handed over to the protagonist (or is it?), Chick Benetto, and I’ve seen that move before too and applied it in one of my early novels that made its way to the trash so even though it was unanticipated, I felt nostalgia creep in!
Chick Benetto tries to kill himself and I get automatically intrigued. Isn’t it sad that death has a way of luring people into paying attention to tales? One of my favorite songs ‘If I die young’ by the Band Perry has a haunting line – “Funny when you’re dead how people start listening” which could actually be the theme of this novel. Chick begins to really know his mother and the meaning behind her words or her love towards him, truly appreciating her efforts as a divorced mother of two who had to deal with a lot of judgmental people who did not make their lives easier, only after she died. She did not die young which was actually a relief because I do not like such stories but the loss of the pain is still real. The multiple chapters that are titled ‘Times I did not stand up for my mother’ and ‘Times my mother stood up for me’ form the highlight of this novel because sure, it is a comparison of motherly love and the love of a child towards his mother which we all know will not match up, but it is crucial in reminding the readers of the sacrifices that a mother makes that cannot be measured with anything in the world.
The story goes back and forth from flashbacks to whatever place Chick gets transported to, courtesy of his suicide attempt, where he meets his mother (or her ghost or an echo) and I can only imagine how tiring it must have been to write like that. Though other characters are present, they fade away from the reader’s mind as this is mainly a story about a son and his mother. A part which I really liked in the story was how Chick’s mother went about giving beauty treatments to old women even when she was one herself because even though we can deny it for the sake of others, everyone likes to feel beautiful no matter how old they become and this job seemed like a unique service she was providing to the society apart from her character being written as one full of warmth, sensibility, care and strength. The story is also about how parents like to see their unfulfilled dreams come true through their children, be it Chick’s father’s baseball dreams (Albom’s sports experience has been effectively utilized here) or his mother’s dream for him to get a proper education. The dilemma of a child having to choose sides in a divorce and how not being given complete information about the reason of the parents’ split, in this case, out of love, leading to Chick choosing the wrong side and basically, ruining his entire life is explored in detail.
As in the case of other Albom novels, this story also comes with a message that stands out from the others (because there are plenty) and this time, I knew it even before I reached the end. Sometimes, it is necessary to forgive ourselves and we often need to be reminded to do so from our loved ones, dead or alive as they may be, in order to find meaning in continuing to live. It is a little morbid to root for the main character to die but ‘For one more day’ will convert you to that person until you near the end of the story. You will realize that Chick’s near-death experience (I would have given a spoiler alert warning but this is just my interpretation and the ‘one more day’ Chick gets with his mother could mean something else to you) was mostly necessary for him to make amends for his mistakes and in order to do that, he would have to leave his mother’s side one more time and face reality. And when you finally think that ‘if my mother said it, I believe it’ is the best line from the book, you will learn that ‘if my father said it, I believe it’ could compete with it for the spot too! Picking up this book would not be a waste of your time and even though sad beginnings may not be your cup of tea, I can guarantee you that you will close the book with a smile on your face.