Poignant. That is the word that probably best sums up how I felt when I finally finished Kazuo Ishiguro’s “The Remains of the Day“.
Recently I went to the Popular Book Fair, and I came home with more books for Amy than for myself (what’s new). It was my first time going to such a fair though. If you’ve never been, let me just tell you that the sheer amount of books available can make you go mad! I literally didn’t know where to start. And before I was even halfway through, my eyes were seeing stars already.
So, as I told my friend who was with me, I was looking out for books that ‘jumped’ out at me. Books that would catch my attention and give me that connection. It’s almost like looking for a soul mate haha.
In the end, I got several sticker, activity and board books for Amy, and two titles for myself. One of them was this, Hemingway In Love: His Own Story.
I have to confess. Having this book in my hand made me feel somewhat cultured. I mean, I knew the name ‘Ernest Hemingway’. He was an accomplished writer. One of the classics. He was big.
However, I actually had no idea what he was famous for exactly. I haven’t read any of his works. A quick Google would show up some really good quotes by him though, like:
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
“We’re stronger in the places that we’ve been broken.”
“In order to write about life first you must live it.”
Love him already.
But even though I do not know much about him, it didn’t make this book less inspiring or interesting. I am so happy I got this memoir.
Hemingway in Love: His Own Story is not a complete biography about the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winner. If I’m not mistaken, A. E. Hotchner had already written a few other books that covered the other areas of Hemingway’s life. This particular book zooms in to Hemingway’s joy, loss, regrets and mistakes in love.
As Hotchner was such a close friend of Hemingway’s (he even calls Hemingway ‘Papa’), this book gives the reader the privilege and opportunity to be part of the intimate conversations between the duo.
It gave me a glimpse into how human and real Hemingway was. At times, I felt like hitting his head and asking him to be wise. But my heart also ached with him. And somehow, somewhere along the lines in those pages, I am inspired to be bold and step out to try new things; to appreciate and guard the relationship I have with the one I love; and to be a better writer.
Whether or not this would spur me to pick up Hemingway’s own books I don’t know, but I definitely have no regrets at all adding this to my library.
The Reb had lived a few days beyond his massive stroke, in a peaceful coma, long enough for his wife, children and grandchildren to get there and whisper their good-byes. I had done the same, touching his thick white hair, hugging my face to his, promising he would not die the second death, he would not be forgotten, not as long as I had a breath in me.*
And now the Reb will live on through this beautifully written book, with his teachings touching an indefinite number of lives who read the words printed on the pages.
Mitch Albom has a way to captivate his readers through his writing, and this book is no different. Have A Little Faith is said to be his second non-fiction book, after Tuesdays with Morrie, and it shows us his journey of getting to know his Rabbi, Albert Lewis, not as a clergyman, but as a person.
As I read the book, I too began to respect and love the Reb. He was down-to-earth, positive, open-minded, loving, and so wise. There were so many pages that stopped me in my tracks, and left big impressions on me.
The Reb once did a sermon on how the same things in life can be good or evil, depending on what, with free will, we do with them. Speech can bless or curse. Money can save or destroy. Science can heal or kill. Even nature can work for you or against you: fire can warm or burn; water can sustain life or flood it away.*
A few times, I had a lump in my throat while reading this book. It reminded me so much of my dad as well as Alexa.
My dad, because, well, the Reb was old and dying, and Mitch described how he hated seeing the Reb grow weaker, and how he hated the idea that the Reb would die in a very near future. I could identify with that.
And Alexa, because, the Reb too lost one daughter when she was just four years old.
“My friends, when sometimes we are asked why does someone perish, someone so young in age, I can only fall back on the wisdom of our tradition. It is true that David did not live long for his day. But while he lived, David taught, inspired, and left us a great spiritual legacy, including the Book of Psalms. One of those Psalms, the twenty-third, is read sometimes at funerals.
“Is it not better to have known Rinah, my daughter, for four years, than not to have known her at all?”*
As painful as it was, yes, it was better to have been able to carry Alexa in my womb for 9 months and to have had held her in my arms, than to have never had her at all.
Have A Little Faith made me think about the life I’m living. How can I live better? How can I love better? How can I purpose my life better? How can I deepen my faith?
As a writer, I am also greatly inspired by Mitch, as I always am after reading his books. Trained as a journalist, I am reminded of how lives can be impacted when good stories are found and written well.
p.s.: By the way, I believe the copy that I have is an updated version. There were some turn of events after the publication of the first version, that he added into this latest one.
*Excerpts from the book