Thursday, January 22, 2015

"The Children Act": Why have I never read Ian McEwan until now?

It's been awhile since I've read a book that led me to openly debate with my husband in the evenings. I'm embarrassed to admit as an avid book enthusiast that I've never read a book by Ian McEwan before this one which I am pretty sure was on every single "Best Books of 2014" list.  I saw the movie "Atonement," but seeing a movie and reading an author's style do not correlate.  At first I was a bit put off by the stuffy, pretentious quality of the writing (it read more like a movie script to me than a novel), but that quickly dissipated as I worked my way into the daily dilemmas that high court Judge Fiona Maye faced and in particular the case of Andrew, a 17 year old Jehovah's Witness suffering from leukemia whose family refused to give him a blood transfusion based on religious reasons.

In the lead up to this court case, the reader learns that Fiona, age 59, is a judge of impeccable reasoning skills.  She is highly respected in her field and the court cases that she faces - from conjoined twins who must be separated in order to save the life of one even if the devoutly Catholic parents don't want to go against God's will, and divorce settlements involving Jewish parents, often relate in some way to religion.  With each case she hears, she uses sound reason and logic to decide what is best for each child involved using The Children Act (1989) as her guide: "When a court determines any question with respect to . . . the upbringing of a child . . . the child’s welfare shall be the court’s paramount consideration.” - SECTION I (A).  

The backdrop of her reason and logic filled days in court is her emotional and personal distress at home as her husband, Jack, seeks her approval to have an affair with a much younger woman.  Fiona is both disgusted and horrified with Jack's request even if he chooses to blame her for his need to stray citing her emotional and physical distance as the main reasons he wants to have a heated love affair with someone else. Their icy relationship drips with tension and betrayal.  Both sides are hurting; in the case of love, logic and reason often don't count.

But the law will not wait for personal problems at home. Andrew's case must be decided almost immediately due to the severity of his cancer and the necessity for a blood transfusion.  In order to get a clearer understanding of his physical condition and his personal wishes, Fiona visits him in the hospital to understand why he and his family are refusing treatment. After this visit, Fiona comes to the conclusion that Andrew's welfare is not the paramount consideration of his family and his church and overrules their denial of the transfusion, forcing Andrew to receive a life saving treatment.

What happens from here both startled and confused me, but the delicacy of the situations presented in the book made me think long after I closed the cover in the evenings, and stayed with me after I finished the book.  I brought up the dilemmas to my husband over dinner and was surprised by his answers. So many questions are presented in this book: Whose fault is the loss of love? Who gets to ultimately make the decision about the welfare of a child? An adult? A relationship? What happens when we are unable to act in the best welfare of a child or ourselves? What role does religion play in our lives? What ultimately gives our lives meaning?

These are big questions and even if the critics agree that this book doesn't fit in the realm of most of McEwan's books, much exists in it's short length that can pose huge life questions without easy answers which make it an excellent selection for a book club (at least a book club that talks about the books they choose).  As a McEwan virgin, I was impressed with his ability to humanize, criticize and stay neutral all at once.  Even with the seeming pretentiousness of the language at first, this book is worth the read, worth the debate, and worth the title of one of the best books of 2014.

Friday, January 16, 2015

"Belzhar": An almost great YA book

The entire concept of Meg Wolitzer's latest foray into the world of YA literature intrigued me.  Five students are hand chosen for a mysterious and life changing course called "Special Topics in English" taught by the highly regarded Mrs. Quenell. These aren't any ordinary students and this is no ordinary school; they attend The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic high school in rural Vermont for emotionally fragile and highly intelligent students. On the first day of Special Topics in English the five specially selected students gather in class and Mrs. Quenell tells them that they will only study the life and works of Sylvia Plath, the queen of adolescent angst and blinding depression.  Each student is given an ancient journal, and what each student finds out in turn is that when they write in their journals they are  transported to a time where their lives were less stressful and free of the trauma that led them to The Wooden Barn.  The five students secretly meet and come up with the name "Belzhar" (get it Bell Jar?) to talk about where they go when they write in their journals.

It sounds cool, right? Well, it was . . . mostly really good.

I read Wolitzer's highly acclaimed "The Interestings" last year and felt lukewarm about it.  It was long, murky and each of the so called interesting characters turned out to be sad and depressed for different reasons.  This book held promise and because the students are at a school for mostly depressed students, there is no false hope that they aren't already damaged by the misery that life forces on you at times.  The narrative voice, Jam Gallahue, kept me interested from the very first chapter when she explains that her London exchange student boyfriend, Reeve's death, was the reason she ended up at The Wooden Barn.  She seemed fragile, but competent, and after suffering from the loss of true love with a truly original boy, who wouldn't be fragile?  The other students in the class: Sierra Stokes (a beautiful dancer), Marc Sonnenfeld (an overachiever who always wants to follow the rules and do the right thing), Griffin Foley (a moody farm boy who hides behind his hair and hoody), and Casey Cramer (a socialite who is wheelchair bound after a car accident)  have trauma in their lives, too and each disclose their stories as the novel unfolds.

What I liked about this book is the concept.  I love that the writing really matters in Mrs. Quenell's class, and that each student is treated as highly competent vs. highly fragile.  When the students balk about writing regularly in the journals, Mrs. Quenell firmly tells them, "Everyone has something to say.  But not everyone can bear to say it.  Your job is to find a way." The idea of writing as therapy is not just appealing to me, but the reality that I lived for 15 years as I watched my students write their way free of past and present painful experiences and discover their worth and strength as individuals in their words.  Maybe it's just the past English teacher in me, but I wanted to know more about Mrs. Quenell.  Wolitzer doesn't spend enough time developing her, and at times she seemed like a throw away character vs. the inspirational teachers of past YA classics like Mr. Keating in Dead Poet's Society (oh, Robin Williams.  The sad irony of that film still pokes holes in my heart today).

I also loved the idea that each of these students had to travel to the past to understand their emotional pain (and break free of it) in the present.  How tempting would it be to stay in a world where we didn't have to deal with our most traumatic moments and ordeals? But, as Jam finds out in her Belzhar, no advancements or progress can be made in that world.  It is stress free and happy, but no future exists there.

Just like in "The Interestings," Wolitzer assembles an interesting cast of characters who each read like real people.  There is a Breakfast Club type quality about them as they sneak away to their weekly meetings and talk about their experiences in Belzhar and their fears about what happens when the journal is full.

Maybe the biggest let down for me was the truth of Jam's story at the end.  I don't know why, but it made me mad and sad all at once.  I think about all the hopeful young adults out there that get stuck in emotions and allow them to take over their lives to the point of obsession and mental breakdowns. Even with my background teaching and dealing with teenagers and teen angst every single day, Jam's story hurt to read.

There are big questions posed here like how do we deal with grief and how to we continue on after the inevitable tragedies of life occur? There is an even bigger question about reality and what we choose to view as the truth. Wolitzer doesn't dive into these questions, though, with enough conviction to lend them weight.  Maybe if there had been more about Sylvia Plath's life and work and more parallels to her?

I'm not sure what would have made this semi-good YA book really great. I did read it in one day, and Wolitzer kept my attention the whole time.  I know that young teenage girls would love it, and it might even get them interested enough to read more Sylvia Plath which would be a great thing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle" - A Real Hallmark Movie

I, Rebecca Thiegs, fully admit that over the 2014 Christmas season, I was addicted to the Hallmark channel.  I watched every wonderfully sappy, hopeful, uplifting story they presented from "The Christmas Ornament" to "The Christmas Secret" to "Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas" as I baked cookies, wrapped presents, and folded the never ending loads of laundry in my house.  Maybe because this was the first Christmas in my life (with the exception of the year I lived in London) that I wasn't surrounded by family and our normal traditions, I was drawn into the predictable and lovable plots.  I cried and cheered, and even got my husband and two young girls addicted to the family friendly movies on Hallmark.  When my daughter, Story, fussed and said, "I don't want to watch this. Can't we watch something else?" I told her to give the Hallmark movie of the day 10 minutes and she would drawn in enough to want to see what happened.  Sure enough, after 10 minutes she sat rapt with attention and wouldn't let us change the channel. Why is it that I've never known about this channel before? Because Stageoflife ran a Random Acts of Kindness contest for our December writing contest, I stumbled across the book "The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle" by Joanne Huist Smith.  Not only does the title sound like a Hallmark movie and the front cover look like an amazing invitation, but also the story reads just like a Hallmark movie.

After a sudden death of her husband, Joanne Huist Smith, is terrified of facing her first Christmas with her three kids, Megan, Ben and Nick, alone.  She refuses to decorate her house, Christmas shopping outings lead to disagreements in the store with fellow shoppers, and her Christmas spirit is no where to be found.  Her whole life revolves around a slow simmering pot of chaos - too tired to cook, too emotionally overwhelmed to deal with her oldest son's disappearances and late nights out, too indifferent to deal with her other son's retreat to his room, and not in the right mind frame to comfort her daughter who only wants to have a normal Christmas even if her dad isn't there to celebrate with them.  When a mysterious gift appears at their front door, a poinsettia with a note that reads "from your true friends" the family starts to question - who are these mysterious true friends? When gifts keep appearing each night, the family separated by their individual grief, bonds together in the glow of how much they really do have even after a tremendous loss.

Yes, I cried a bunch, but it was more than a cry book for me.  I was reminded by the simple random act of kindness from the "true friends" of the Huist family that Christmas joy, although in large supply in my family during the holiday season, is something that many struggle with for various reasons.  Reaching out to others during the holiday season, especially to strangers that might be in need, is something each and every one of us is capable of doing.  Huist sums this up by saying, "one of the greatest gifts we all possess is the ability to give. Wealth isn't a prerequisite; compassion and a kind heart are all you need. What better way to honor our loved ones, past and present, than to reach out and change a life for the better? And, the holidays are a perfect time to look outside of ourselves and be a true friend.  A legacy of generosity can create memories that reverberate beyond the moment and outshine the brightest of heirloom ornaments."

Reading this book made me rethink how I give to others this Christmas season and look well beyond my family to the school's crossing guard, many of our servers who received huge tips, and goody bags delivered to people who spend so much time thinking about others that they often forget about taking care of themselves.  It felt awesome to give to strangers who need a little extra love during the holiday season.

I recently started a book club and this was our first book selection.  Each of the dynamic and wonderful women of the group who read it agreed that they loved it and cried while reading it. Each of them needed the message and the uplifting story for different reasons.  One of the women spent the Christmas holiday in Costa Rica and reading "The 13th Gift" while there allowed her to connect deeply with the spirit of giving and gave her a small piece of home.  Another woman who found out over the summer that her sister has terminal brain cancer, read it and took the messages of love and giving and the importance of traditions even in the face of loss to heart.  Another woman was reminded of how much the kindness of strangers can impact our lives like one did for her after her mother died.  A woman from her church enlarged beautiful pictures of her mother for the funeral service and now these keepsakes serve as a reminder to her and her daughter to pass on the giving to others in their time of need.

I needed to be redirected during this holiday season - where so much time and energy and money get spent on material gifts that my daughters play with for a select amount of time and then get bored and move on to something else.  Huist reminds us that the true spirit of giving comes from the heart and from a place of love not obligation, from kindness not from money.  If that doesn't sound like a Hallmark movie, I don't know what does.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"The Power of Habit": A Fitting book for New Year's Resolutions

Do you make New Year's Resolutions every year and give up after a week or a month? Maybe you need to take a closer look at the habits that surround your resolution - study your cue, the routine and the reward. Then, dig even deeper into what makes you crave a certain habit.  New York Times investigative reporter Charles Duhigg's book "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" explores the truth behind habits - the habit loop, our cravings, how we can change habits and how habits can lead us to success or failure as individuals and even societies.  He could end up helping you transform your life (or stick to your New Year's Resolution) by understanding why you do what you do.

Duhigg says this in his introduction:
"In the past decade, our understanding of the neurology and psychology of habits and the way patterns work within our lives, societies, and organizations has expanded in ways we couldn't have imagined fifty years ago.  We now know why habits emerge, how to break them into parts and rebuild them to our specifications.  We understand how to make people eat less, exercise more, work more efficiently, and live healthier lives.  Transforming a habit isn't necessarily easy or quick.  It isn't always simple.
But it is possible. And now we understand how."

I found parts of this book fascinating, parts a stretch of comparisons that didn't necessarily fit together, and then others more about mob psychology and societal change than habits themselves.  Regardless of the slow parts or the parts that made me scratch my head a bit (in one section he compared a gambling habit where a woman gambled away her life savings to a sleepwalking habit of a man who accidentally killed his wife), the rest of the book was compelling enough for me to read sections aloud to my husband who is tasked with transforming his growing company.  I kept asking him, "Have you ever thought about that for your company?" He listened intently.

As I read about Hopkins transforming the dental hygiene of Americans by creating a foaming craving and tingling sensation in Pepsodent toothpaste, I was intrigued.  This was a necessary habit to stop the epidemic of bad teeth.  As the government put it when they started drafting men for WWI "so many recruits had rotting teeth that officials said that poor dental hygiene was a national security risk." Look at us now - consumed by foaming and tingling sensations brought about by whitening toothpastes.  The choices in the toothpaste aisle are dizzying thanks to the habits Claude Hopkins helped to create in the early 1900s. What would our teeth look like today if Hopkins had not helped us create that habit?

Another part of the book that was fascinating to me was Paul O'Neill and his ingenious reformation of ALCOA.  Unlike the previous CEO, O'Neill stepped into power and made one thing his goal - safety.  By changing the way people thought about safety, he improved every aspect of the company.  He improved their profits, and higher quality products.  Researchers have found that tapping into the right keystone habit can transform other habits.  For example, "studies have documented that families who habitually eat dinner together seem to raise children with better homework skills, higher grades, greater emotional control, and more confidence." Just like they have found that people who habitually make their beds are more productive and better with sticking to a budget.  "It's not that a family meal or a tidy bed causes better grades or less frivolous spending. But somehow those initial shifts start chain reactions that help other good habits take hold." Eye opening stuff.

When he uncovered the secret behind the success of Febreeze, the buying habits of Target shoppers and Target's marketing analysts (totally Big Brother stuff), Michael Phelps and his routine of success, and Tony Dungy's winning coaching strategies that all focus on the habits of players, I again was fascinated by how humans can be broken down to a series of routines and reactions.  Just like when I read the part about recovery from surgery or success according to Starbucks stems from creating a habit - a habit of how to help someone in stressful retail situations (LATTE is ingenious) or a habit of writing down an intention.

I somewhere read that a study showed that students who attended Harvard business school and wrote down their goals were more successful than students who didn't which makes perfect sense according to Duhigg's research.  I also like to think that my husband and I are more successful in reaching our goals because we meticulously write them down and try to come up with one intention for the year.  Last year my intention had to do with a successful cross country move for me and my family, and things worked out really well.  This year my focus is on creating more of a balance in my life.  Am I working on my habits the right way? I'm not so sure about that, but I am way more aware of the psychology behind successful and not so successful habits thanks to reading this book.

Duhigg's book will stick with me for some time to come (and many more New Year's Resolutions to come as well).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild": Searching for her Dad and Finding Herself

"Looking back on my struggle to find my father, I began to understand my quest as part of a bigger human drive.  My journey triggered by my desire to have children, but whether we reproduce or not, the need to understand where we come from is universal.  It's just part of the human process, like learning to talk, or to jump.  We have an instinct to tell the story of our past, to understand what came before, to try to make sense of it." - Novella Carpenter

I love to read memoirs that chronicle the searches that people undertake for healing and understanding in their lives.  In Novella Carpenter's "Gone Feral: Tracking My Dad Through the Wild" she searches to better understand her elusive, erratic father, George Carpenter, whose moods, beliefs and lifestyle baffle her.  Her parents divorced when she was only four years old, and she spent a lifetime becoming more and more estranged from her father.

Novella's search for her father begins because she gets a message from her mother that her father is missing.  Her mom's commentary on George's disappearance is "weird, huh?" Novella reasons with herself that she "had always accepted, or at least didn't dwell on, his absence, but now that he had disappeared in such a dramatic, tangible way,  [she] felt compelled to find him." After days of worrying over never seeing her father again, Novella receives an email from him that he's alive and well in Arizona, but as she processes the news of her father's unintended disappearance, she decides that she needs to "make things right with her dad" because she has a "breeding plan" and wants to figure out what happened with her parents.  Why was her dad the way he was? Could they reconcile or rebuild a relationship? 

She crafts a quick email to her dad which says, "This whole missing person thing made me realize how much I would regret it if we don't have some meaningful time together.  I would love to stay with you and learn some mountain man skills, or just go fly-fishing.  I love you dad and love your spirit, I know it flows in me." 

In this story of discovery, Novella discovers ugly truths about her father - his hot temper, his suicidal tendencies, his ramshackle life in a run down shack of a cabin, and his increasingly crazy and anti-social behavior.  She also starts to see herself more clearly - how her mom and dad's ideals are also some of her own.  She starts to take a harder look at the life she lives surrounded by goats, urban farming and her love of growing plants on a plot of abandoned land next to her rented home,  her hoarding tendencies, and her uncompromising viewpoints.  She realizes that the life her parents dreamed for her when they were young parents - a feral existence of living off of the land, and how they arrived at their beliefs about how to raise two little girls off of the land in Idaho - mirror some of her own philosophies about life.  She sees this as "rhyming the past" rather than repeating it. Our parents run through our veins whether we like it or not.  

I loved Novella's search for her father which really led her to a discovery of herself and more of a clear picture of not only her parent's paths in life, but how she became who she is. She notices the subtleties of life around her and has a keen sense of the natural world (just like her father and mother), and she can profoundly declare the truths of existence in a way that clarifies life.  My favorite passage of the book comes close to the end: 

Families are like ecosystems.  They begin looking one way, but as the years tick by, the inhabitants change. Some grow and flourish, others are wounded.  They might rebound, or die.  Nests are built and young are raised, then the fledglings leave.  When disaster hits, only the adaptable survive.  In my family, there were constants that added a certain texture to our family's ecosystem: love of language, of reading.  A tendency toward living on the fringes.  A hot rage that burns inside of us, and sometimes threatens ourselves and others. Sensitivity, a sense of the incredible power and beauty in the natural world.  A love of the numinous so powerful that it mesmerizes and inspires us.  We are craggy and hard; intense and uncompromising . .  . Every movement, every act, is a meditation on those who came before us.

These are HUGE realizations that many people choose to ignore in their lives.  As I read this book I thought about my own father and mother - who they are as people and how they shaped the person that I am and the person that I still hope to be.  

If you've never asked yourself what constants are in your family or who you are because of (and in despite of) your parents, this book will make you confront those questions and take the journey to discover yourself as you discover what you love and despise about your mom and dad equally run through your veins.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, a Marriage": Be ready to crave pizza

"There is something about Delancey that, to me, matters just as much: We get to make people happy.  We get to give people a good night. We get to spend our days doing work that we can be proud of, and when we're done, there's all the pizza you can eat."

I'm pretty sure I was the only kid who didn't go crazy over pizza.  Whenever my parents wanted to have a pizza night, I nicely requested for them to get me a sub instead.  I even lied in my 3rd grade class when I was interviewed by a high school student assigned to write a book about me.  The personalized book would include all of my favorite things.  When asked what my favorite food was I lied and said, "pizza" just because I knew that saying shrimp scampi would sound weird.  My parents owned a fine dining restaurant when I was in 3rd grade, so when all my friends were loving macaroni and cheese, I grew up on lobster tails and filet mignon.

Pizza was just never my thing, until I moved to the Chicago area and discovered the joys of Georgio's deep dish spinach pizza.  OMG.  It's glorious with just the right amount of cheese, and a thick layer of bright red sauce.  The spinach and onions offer a beautiful balance and the crust is light even though it's a deep dish. Something about the baked in cheese on top of the crust and then the layer of spinach,  topped by the sauce makes it irresistible.

I didn't know pizza could taste like this, but now that I know, I can't un-know it.  I'm still a liar when it comes to my 3rd grade biography, but at least now I get what all the fuss is about, so when I read Molly Wizenberg's memoir "Delancey: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage" I could relate and even crave the perfect pizza that her husband, Brandon set out to create.  Wizenberg is the critically acclaimed author of The New York Times bestseller "A Homemade Life" and she also created the blog "Orangette" voted the best food blog in the world.  In her memoir "Delancey" she reveals the back story of when she and her husband conceived the idea to open a restaurant, and not just any restaurant, but the perfect place to eat pizza that didn't feel like any old pizza joint, but felt instead like a dinner party with farm fresh ingredients and a simple menu.

Although Wizenberg didn't believe her husband Brandon would ever go through with his idea to open a restaurant and even supported his dream, when the reality of the hours, the unreliable employees, the pizza flour that got everywhere and required late night cleanings, the stress of not sleeping and having to contend with payroll and food ordering and pleasing the public set in, she understandably fell apart. I loved her candor about wanting to be involved in the kitchen and forcing herself to be who she wasn't and how unhappy it made her.  The tension between her and her husband grew thick, and only until they devised a transition plan to get her out of the kitchen did things start to gel.

Daunting.  That's the word I thought about when she described those unsure days after they opened their restaurant's doors to a pizza hungry crowd.  I was part of that as a child as my parents tried to run a successful fine dining restaurant.  The hours were crappy.  My two older sisters and I never saw them.  They were always stressed.  The employees stole food and whatever else they could get their hands on when my mom and dad weren't being vigilant, and the public is hard to please on a consistent basis.  Not knowing what you are doing and opening a restaurant are a lethal combination (if you ever watch Kitchen Nightmares or Restaurant Impossible, you know what I'm talking about), but Brandon and Molly stuck with the idea, figured out their roles (after trial and error) and went on to create a successful restaurant and even open a companion bar / restaurant later on.

Was it easy? No way, but nothing worth doing is ever really that easy.

If you know a foodie or a pizza lover or maybe even someone who really wants to open a restaurant, Wizenberg's candor and wit and especially her descriptions of the pizza pilgrimages she and her husband took across the country as research for their restaurant will entrance you and probably entice you to seek pizza either during or right after reading.

Happy reading and eating (pizza).

Monday, December 8, 2014

"The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry": The Journey to Find Meaning in a Life of Drudgery

"You'd think walking should be the simplest thing . . . Just a question of putting one foot in front of the other.  But it never ceases to amaze me how difficult the things are that are supposed to be instinctive really are." 

I once hiked for 6 hours on the Appalachian Trail.  When I returned to my car, I felt relaxed, hungry and mildly exhausted.  During my hiking days, I would run into "through hikers" who intended to hike the 2,200 mile journey that stretches from Georgia to Maine.  They looked feral, and thin but intently focused on their ending point, and that's how Harold Fry, the unlikely hero in Rachel Joyce's book, "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" looks in the middle of his journey when he decides to let go of all material things - even money and tough out his journey by trusting in the universe to provide what he needs. 

Harold Fry, a recently retired man who lives in a small English village with his overly critical and hardened wife, Maureen receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy written in shaky handwriting that says she is in hospice care and wanted to say goodbye.  Harold, unsure of how to respond to his former work mate and friend, writes a quick reply letter.  As he goes to put his letter in the mail, he decides to keep walking.  He makes it to the post office, and decides to keep walking.  Without telling anyone (including his pinched wife, Maureen), he starts walking the over 600 mile journey to hand deliver the letter to Queenie himself.  He alerts the hospice directors that he is walking to say goodbye to Queenie and politely asks her to wait for his arrival.  

Thus begins Harold's journey of self discovery as he spans the English countryside encountering interesting characters who want to help him, talk to him and eventually follow his lead and journey with him. Harold faces numerous challenges on his walk to Queenie.  First, he contends with his health issues.  Walking so much at first causes bruises and aches and pains that Harold is unaccustomed to in his soft life of tea and sitting on a couch.  He struggles against the weather, his physical condition, and hunger, but mostly along his journey he struggles with self-doubt (Is he doing the right thing? Does it even matter? Why is he walking in the first place? Can he really walk over 600 miles?). Even more pervasive by the end of the novel,  Harold struggles with the demons of his past and the realizations about what his life has become.  

In many ways, we are all Harold Fry, struggling against ourselves in our journey through life.  Unlike Harold Fry, many people are too afraid to face our fears and travel through them to annihilate them and live more fully.  Most of us aren't drawn by our instincts or by the internal drive that tells us that we can accomplish whatever we want to accomplish regardless of the odds.  Most of us don't put our trust in the universe to provide us with what we need. 

I thought often of the Henry Ford quotation while reading this book, "Whether you think you can or think you can't - you're right." Jodie, from my book club, asked the question, "Could it even be possible for someone like Harold to take this journey?"  My immediate and heart felt response was, "Absolutely!" We can all accomplish so much more than we believe we can.  Just like Harold, it might not always be clear why we need to do the things that are the most unlikely, but if we believe we can, we might just meet with success and overcome whatever plagues us from our past or in our present lives.  

One of the nuns who works in Queenie's hospice center tells Harold that his journey to see Queenie and his respectful request for her to wait for him to arrive to say goodbye is "a rather unusual kind of healing." She goes on to say, " I don't know how you came up with it.  But maybe it's what the world needs.  A little less sense, and a little more faith." 

That sounds like good advice to me.  

If you are looking for an inspiring book about an unlikely hero overcoming impossible odds on a journey of healing and self discovery, Rachel Joyce might just be your new favorite author and "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" might become your new favorite book.