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     Volume 2 Issue 107 | February 22, 2009|


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Book Review

Tuesdays with Morrie

Author: Mitch Albom
Reviewed by Sameeha Suraiya

He was not a star athlete, nor was he a successful entrepreneur. He was a philosophy professor at Brandeis University, Massachusetts. Fame still came when he appeared in the famous 'Nightline' show. And Morrie Schwartz was an instant household name. He touched so many lives across America that anyone who had met him will be likely to say that Morrie had affected them in ways more powerful that Bill Gates, Michael Jordan combined. Morrie may have left the world a little over ten years now, but his words and inspiration still live on. One of his students in the late 1970's was Mitch Albom, the author himself. They had become good friends over those few years. Twenty years later, the teacher and his student come together and bond once again. In this book Mitch Albom pays homage to the greatest mentor in his life. What starts as a reunion of old friends turns into a project of a lifetime.

The story reads like a semi-autobiography, where the author chronicles the last few classes with his dying professor. By this time Albom is a sports newscaster and a writer traveling around the globe, being successful and striving for more. Right when his career takes a sudden plunge and everything seems to be spiraling out of control, Albom discovers his professor on TV, who now suffers from ALS, a very rare and terminal disease. He feels the need to connect once morethe person who had inspired him as a student, and now is considered to be sent by some higher power to guide lost souls. And thus begins the lessons never to be forgotten, each class set on a Tuesday, without books or exams, with only one student. The requirement is to talk and listen. And the lesson is simple. They talk about Life.

The book does not make a documentary out of Morrie Schwartz's life; rather it is Albom's simple and heart-rending reflection of a few extraordinary days with a person who stands fearless and full of gratitude at the face of death. It is a fruit of the collaboration between Morrie and Albom who also tapes each of his Tuesday visits. What makes it an enjoyable and fulfilling read is the fact that, even though it is a non-fiction, there is a traceable storyline that shifts from Albom's University years to the present.

Albom remembers how his old professor once shared his lunch table, how much he used to enjoy his macaroni, and most of all his dancing. Any music would move Morrie into a joyous celebration, as he swung away with eyes closed. It at first pains Albom to see his spirited professor stuck in a wheelchair, spending his days by the window in his study, watching the pink hibiscus plant shed its leaves, suggestive of the fragility of life and time passing. For thirteen Tuesdays, there is a different lesson, lessons about the world, feeling sorry for yourself, regrets, death, family, emotions, fear of ageing, money, how love goes on, marriage, culture and forgiveness. What truly is remarkable is Morrie's power to connect with people across all age and culture. As he says, “It's not too late to develop new friendships or reconnect with people.” Soon after his appearance on the TV show, letters pour in and so do people across the country. No letter goes unanswered and no visits unwelcome. Morrie's greatest insights are his views on how our culture plays into our lives, how we are sleepwalking towards things that are far less in value just to keep going because that is how culture projects, and how people tend to be a part of the flock, “The little things, I can obey. But the big things - how we think, what we value - those you must choose yourself. You can't let anyone - or any society - determine those for you.” He is a person who dares to consider himself “lucky” because his illness has allowed him to recollect and reset his priorities, to connect to widest possible range of people, and of course, for his love of education, to teach which continues literally to the very end. The fourteenth Tuesday is the time to part, upon which a day later Morries slips into a coma.

Morrie's simple wisdom has the effect of tapping into life's bigger questions with such clarity and understanding that there is not a single person who can't learn something or be touched by something in this book. It's philosophical, insightful and written in an easy-to-read prose that everyone can identify with. So go ahead and be part of a lesson that you will cherish forever.

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