3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
It is always remarkable when an individual surpasses the boundaries for success laid for them. It is all the more profound when that individual hails from an environment where success is adjudged by getting specific kind of work and making enough to cover the basic necessities of life – the system of small towns.
And Then I Met Margaret is a non-fiction self-help book that chronicles the journey of Rob White from the shackling limits of a mill town to the liberating high stakes of big cities.
The book, divided into twenty-one chapters, is a collection of stories of everyday people who unexpectedly taught the author, during his encounters with them, to develop better insights into his being, breaking away from his restricting viewpoints to a more embracing, transformational outlook; he calls them ‘unexpected gurus’ – ordinary people who instilled life-changing principles by their words or, simply, by their actions as ‘gurus’ are wont to do. As the author opines,
Narrating twenty-one of such instances with twenty-one individuals, Rob tells of his personal encounters with the gurus of life in his transformational journey from a small town boy to a big city shot. In each chapter, an obstructive view he once held is shattered by the focus guru. Each chapter is opened with a myth – an untruth the author had held dearly which the events of the chapter and the encounter with the particular guru helped set straight.Life is constantly offering us opportunities to meet these gurus. Though they may not consciously know it, their purpose is to help us shatter self-limiting myths that prevent us from fully experiencing our lives.
The first chapter captures the moving story of Aunt Theresa, Rob's unmarried aunt who bore the title of ‘old maid’ ascribed to a lady who remains unattached in the period of the author’s childhood. During occasional Old Maid card games with young Rob and her two nieces, Aunt Theresa would ensure the Old Maid card ended in her hands to spare Rob the sadness of experiencing his sister’s taunts whenever he lost and ended up with it. Her nephew would then chant “Aunt Theresa, you are the Old Maid!” severally, to mark her status as the loser. Aunt Theresa's selfless kindness, despite her inner pain, taught Rob a crucial lesson: Kindness is not born out of self-gain but is, itself, an expression of love – the ingredient for building goodwill with people in personal and professional spheres.
When Rob exhibited his first major deviation from small-town norm and went off to college, he lied about his origins so he could fit in, but that distanced him further from his colleagues. So, he ended up forming a friendship with his dorm custodian, Pete–a small town resident like him. After a few months, Pete broke the friendship urging Rob to let go of his past and revel in his present. Pete’s action armed the author with the courage to dare to fit into his current world and, eventually, helped Malcolm – one of his students, free himself from the shackles of doubts to the lane of progressive determination.
Author Rob White in revealing the impact of breaking away from narrow mindsets also reiterates throughout the 21 chapters the impact of the lessons we get from the seemingly ordinary people we come across on a daily basis, and the nuggets of wisdom that can set us on a path towards accomplishments. These ‘gurus’ exist side by side us in our society; you do not need to look far to find great minds that can teach you a lesson or two on purposeful living.
And Then I Met Margaret is a fresh outlook on the same subject: How to live a purposeful and content life. The book's insights, although not new, are told from a personal and fresh angle that makes it differ from other self-help books. The use of dialogues interwoven with the first person narrative gives the books a dramatic feel and builds a connection between the readers and the individuals in the book – a combination that keeps you glued to the end. The ‘Myth I Believed’ hook keeps the reader's interest aroused and curiously eager till the ‘the reality’ that replaces the myth is revealed at the end of each chapter.
The titular guru, Margaret, a second grader, revealed in chapter 18 while on a class excursion to Rob’s restaurant, is supposed to have freed the author from an attitude of self-absorption to an inclusive stance that considers others’ relevance in the scheme of our activities, and she did this through a single self-focused question aimed at Rob. Although the author claims this was his most profound lesson, I find it rather lacking in the magnitude expected of the titular position in the book. Margaret's 'lesson' bears the scent of previous references to selfless kind acts as already espoused by chapters such as The Great Vitim Candy Caper and the Queen of Hearts.
While I agree with the author's view that we need to take control of the direction we want to go by taking actions that push us closer there, the author’s notion that you always have to be in control is itself limiting. No man works as an island; sometimes, you will need to relinquish a certain amount of control to another with considerably more skill to get a task done faster and more efficiently – the division of labour, the pillar of any organizational structure.
The book suggests that any individual can achieve any milestone in life simply by breaking away from restrictive mindsets and working hard. While this premise is unarguably a recipe for success, the writer's unswerving postulation of it as the magical bridge one rides to achieving any feat in life is non-embracing. While I agree that hard work usually begets success, as a person of faith, I believe that fate is an important player. It factored in his finding of the book that helped him decide to go into real estate and wasn’t just his decision to succeed that made it so. Discounting it will render mysterious the unyielding efforts of many a people who toil without fruits. Hard work and the hands of fate work in tandem in granting the boons one actively seeks.
It is for this reason and the several errors ranging from wrong tense usage, wrong use or absence of punctuation, and dialectical inconsistency, to the omission of words spotted throughout the book, I rate And Then I Met Margaret 3 out of 4 stars.
The book may just be a pleasant read for those who want to renew their belief in themselves and in the power of their abilities as the stories may come in handy in offering the grounds to kick-off the actualization of the dreams playing in their heads.
And Then I Met Margaret
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon
Like Umm_Zahra's review? Post a comment saying so!