It so often seems that the answer to the question is always clear after something has happened and can never be reversed. No one knows why the answer wasn’t there before, why it’s here now if it’s even there at all. The only thing we could ever know is this: we should have been different Before, in order to prevent a distinguished After.
This idea, this concept that has shadowed us for as long as we have existed, is presented in Mitch Albom’s eerie and reflective masterpiece “For One More Day.”
The story concentrates on Chick Benetto, who’s addictive abuse of alcohol and general absence drives a barrier between himself and his ex-wife and daughter. Chick, believing that his broken life is no longer worth living, attempts to return to his hometown, determined to end his life in the very place it began. Before reaching the town, he experiences a fatal car crash, leaving him unconscious for a short period of time.
In his unconscious state, Chick explores a third place, in which he and his mother (who had passed away eight years previous) are reunited. Chick experiences this phenomenon as one day — a final full day to spend with his mother, fit together the mysterious pieces of his life that have haunted him since childhood, and understand the mistakes he has made in the relationship between himself and his mother.
Through Chick’s retrospective memories of times his mother stood up for him versus the times he didn’t do the same for her, the audience is able to make a compelling realization: the immense power that regret can hold over us. The concept is one familiar to us all, one with stable foundations in the evolution of human nature. Through regret, we begin to visualize the border between Before and After.
In the miraculous account illustrated in For One More Day, the readers encounter the pure, everlasting enigma that is a mother’s love. Alongside the idea of love’s promise of forever, the novel, while exceptionally sad, sends a message of hope to the readers: hope for forgiveness, hope for mending the mistakes we never truly meant to make, hope for new beginnings. And perhaps the best new beginning to offer is to pick up For One More Day and marvel at Albom’s literary craftsmanship.
I read this book in eighth grade as a reading requirement and at first, I thought it was relatively childish and boring. Nevertheless, the more I read about it the more that I thought this is an amazing book. Through reading this book, I think the biggest thing that I learned is friendship, family and the gap between rich and poor.
Greasers and Socials are two rival groups, the former representing the poor and the latter rich. Although Greasers are poor, their friendship seems to be unwavering. Their relationship is not built upon any foundation of money, social status, or family background. But merely that we all share a similar interest and intend to achieve it. For one thing, if one Greaser is in danger, all the others would risk their lives to help. But for Socials, they would just run away afraid if their parents should find out they would stop supporting them.
The Socials seem like they are enjoying their lives and they despise the Greasers, but in my opinion, they in some uncanny way also want to be like them. They were born and raised in well-off families, the education they received requires them to be aloof towards anybody who isn’t on the same social level as them. However, I believe in some way they also want to make friends who really care about them and wouldn’t just desert them if their parents’ company went bankrupt or something like that. So deep down, I think there is a piercing desperation and loneliness both from the fake worldliness they have to confront every day and the neglection from their always busy and snobbish parents.
This is perhaps my favorite story written by the short-lived but legendary author so far. It even surpasses his most well-known novel The Red Badge of Courage. Maybe because despite my great interest in the Civil War, the main character in this story touches me the most: Maggie Johnson.
Unlike her common name, Maggie is not a common girl. Just by reading the description of her family, it was pretty easy enough to tell that she detested her family. Her mother, father, and brother Jimmy all had their own life going on. They blame the obstacles in life on her. Mary Johnson, her mother drinks and fights and curses after their father passed away. Jimmy seemed unwilling to acknowledge his family as he thought it as a burden and a disgrace to his life. And Maggie was no different. Since from a young age, her violent reactions including how she trembles and hides under the table show her extreme fear for the people she’s supposed to love the most-her parents. Everything changed when Pete came.
Because of her childhood trauma, Maggie craved more than ever to find a man who is well educated and rich, mainly to save her from her diabolical family. Pete was Jimmy’s friend, I could tell he was being like a casual friend to Maggie by taking her to see plays and eat at luxurious restaurants since he owned a saloon. However, Pete was not a person who holds a serious attitude toward love or relationship, he was simply a player. And this is when Maggie gets really hurt by his rudeness later on when they met Nell, Pete’s old sweetheart. From this point on, Maggie’s imagined glorious life starts to deteriorate.
Moreover, Mary Johnson couldn’t forgive Maggie’s not coming home every night since Pete came along. In my opinion, Mary is very absurd for her requirement for Maggie as a pious daughter when she doesn’t even qualify a single bit to be a mother. Her daughter is an adult, so it’s her right to stay wherever she wants if she doesn’t feel like going home today. Besides, the wrecked condition of the house and her manner toward Maggie, of course, disengages her desire to return home after a grueling day at the clothing factory she works at.
Lastly, this story mainly just reflects how the death of our protagonist at the end proves parental failure to be a severe issue a lot of the children face even in our present society.
Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.
This is the first novel of Saul Bellow and it talks about the declining lifestyle of Joseph, who believes that a spiritual satisfaction overweighs material perfection. For some reason, I think that this character has a great pride lurching in himself. He denies his slovenly condition of life by claiming that it’s austerity which is the factor that should be valued in our daily life.
What makes the entire situation worse is that Joseph’s brother, Amos is really rich. He always offers unlimited financial support for Joseph and his wife Iva, but Joseph never accepts it, again, due to his obstinate pride. Sometimes I think it won’t be a bad decision to just say “thank you” and accept the money for the simple reason that pride won’t feed you, clothe you, live with you forever. But money fulfills all three circumstances.
My favorite part of this book would actually have to be the fight scene between Joseph and his 15 year old overweening niece Etta. As a wealthy only child, she is undoubtedly spoiled by her parents. She gets whatever she wants. And as a small child, she is used to hearing how poverty has had her dad stricken, but now she is lucky because she doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. This naturally places her in a position to despise poor people, especially if they are her relative, meaning Joseph.
Etta’s disrespect for Joseph was magnified when she called him a “beggar” because Joseph was using her piano without her permission and refused to hand it over to her. In turn, Joseph was riled by this act and beat Etta up. Now, Joseph and Etta have a lot of similarities, not only do they look physically similar, but they both think that they are always right no matter what. One thinks that she is always right because of her rich parents who provide her with boundless support, one thinks that he is alright right because of his spiritual purification.
Written in 1930, this novel written by William Faulkner follows the Bundren family. Told from the perspective of over 10-15 different characters, the Bundrens are on a mission: to carry out the wishes of their dead mother and bury her with her family. The only problem? This will be a LONG journey. Throughout the novel, hidden desires and motives are uncovered, as the reader discovers the true reason as to why various members of the Bundren family agree to fulfill their mother Addie’s last wish. From the quiet Cash to the observant Darl, every member has a secret reason as to why they are on this trip. And it is not just to bury their mother out of respect.
Written near the start of the Great Depression, this novel completely goes against the “typical family” stereotype. Rather than everyone being very supportive and loving of each other, it is as if everyone is just a hired actor forced to spend time with everyone else in the family. Each family member goes on this trip for every reason except to actually bury their mother. Some characters are easily disliked in this novel (cough, Anse, cough), while other characters are grown to be well-liked.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.
For diver Kino, his wife Juana and their only son Coyotito are the most important things in this world. In other ways, he has never been to the outside world, so the shabby town is all his eyes can stretch to.
But when the innocent baby got stung by a poisonous scorpion, Kino was helpless, he tramped his dignity under his feet and begged reverently by the well-polished gate by the doctor. Contemptuous rejection due to his impecuniousness was the only reply that he received, not only to him but to all the indigenes. It wasn’t an opinion of the rich people, it transformed into a casual habit a long time ago. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can acquire the authority to scramble a person’s pride.
The existence of the lucent pearl saved his family ostensibly but murdered his son in the end. For the incandescence of the pearl is too attractive that even the rich people bowed their presumptuous heads, but their ravenous eyes incorporated the richness. The insidious compulsion of getting the flawless pearl drove Kino’s family into a trip on a wonky bridge upon perfectionism.
The Pearl by John Steinbeck is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.