“We do not realize the sound the world makes—unless, of course, it comes to a stop. Then, when it starts, it sounds like an orchestra.”
I finished the first book of my 2018 Reading List. In pure math terms I’m about 2 ½ pages per day ahead of schedule. But that’s an illusion. I didn’t stick to my plan many of the days, but the book was remarkably easy to, no pun intended, catch up on time. Future tomes will not be so forgiving.
The first book was The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom. This is the second book I’ve read by Mitch, the first being some years ago. His books could be described as parables, I suppose, each one simple in their storytelling and each one designed to teach a moral or spiritual lesson. Having enjoyed the first one, this one had been on my list for some (ahem) time. It made the final cut this year for that reason, and for two other very important ones: his last name begins with the first letter of the alphabet, and I knew I could breeze through his tome with little effort. I was right.
The former was important because I decided, rather whimsically, to read my 2018 list in alphabetical order, by author’s last name, to avoid any personal bias. The latter is important because I knew this was, undoubtedly, the season of new year hangovers and NFL playoffs. If I was going to get off to a fast start, I would require something breezy.
It worked. Self-awareness pays off.
The book itself? Just okay. Nothing challenging or life-altering, I’d say. The basic premise is an origin story for Father Time, told in conjunction with the tales of two modern mortals. Father Time, an early man named Dor, is on a collision course with the mortals, a teenage girl and aging billionaire, who are dealing with their own demise. One seeks it; the other seeks to avoid it, at all cost. Dor eventually teaches them each a lesson about the value of time itself. Sarah has her whole life ahead of her and should live it. Victor has his whole life behind him and should embrace the end.
I can relate, in ways, to both of the main characters. Who hasn’t felt despair and wondered, if this is it, why remain? Unlike Sarah, though, I’ve never felt despair enough to end it. I’ve always had a certain philosophy that carried me through dark times: when life is hard, it’s time to change. When there’s nothing left, there is nothing left to lose. Rock bottom is a wonderful place to start anew. That thought has always lifted me from the murky depths. Still, I understand the pain she felt, the pain that led her to that day. Life hurts like heck.
Victor I relate to all the more. Not his billions, obviously. I am rich in many ways, but financially is not one of them. His desire to persist, however, is unassailably mine. My answer to the question “if you could live forever, would you,” is inexorably yes.
Father Time teaches Sarah and Victor the value of a single life, nothing less, nothing more. I wholeheartedly agree with Dor’s lesson for Sarah and am gladdened for her evolution. For Victor, however, I find the reasoning to embrace finality unsatisfying. If the future is a living hell, then living in it, to me, is still better than no life at all. In fact, an essential lesson taught to Sarah seemed to be forgotten in the lesson to Victor, when his fate was revealed:
“Time is not something you give back. The very next moment may be an answer…to deny that is to deny the most important part of the future.”
The things that Mitch sought to teach, and did teach, will be added to my cognitive base of data. As I evolve I will remember the words and lessons, and use them accordingly. Perhaps, in time, the lessons that Victor learned will become more important to me. Perhaps.
The bottom line is that The Time Keeper was a pleasant, quick read. I felt for Sarah. I pulled for Victor. The lesson was understood, and I was happy for the final fate of Dor. Isn’t that what we ask a book to do? Tug at our hearts, get us to think, teach us, and then end well. In that regard, Mitch Albom gave us a good enough read.
And, now, on to The Handmaid’s Tale. The future, hell or not, awaits.