3 out of 4 stars
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What Matters Most: Family, Friends, and Foes by Owen Watson is a non-fiction book about how the author’s experiences have shaped his life. He recounts different people and incidents throughout his life from a strong Christian perspective. Even negative events and foes are viewed as lessons learned. There are inspirational tie-ins at the end of each chapter that relate to his recollections.
When Mr. Watson was ten years old, his parents decided to move the family from a crime-ridden Chicago neighborhood to Blytheville, Arkansas where his grandparents lived. As an adult, he served in the Navy and Navy Reserve, and worked at the Post Office and as a minister. He credits certain people as spiritual guides at different points in his life, including a few colleagues.
I initially thought this book was going to be a memoir. It turned out to be more of a motivational book of inspirational teachings that relate to events throughout Mr. Watson’s life. During the descriptions of various people and occurrences, there is an insertion of religious analysis. At times the book seemed like a series of sermons based on his life experiences.
Mr. Watson’s childhood reminiscences are vividly written. There are also interesting passages about the author’s duty assignments in the Navy and a wonderful chapter of original poems. “Painted Picture Perfect” and “Is this the ‘United’ States?” are standouts, but really all of the poems are well written.
The story moves forward in fits and starts. The first few chapters grabbed my attention, with memories of growing up in Chicago and Arkansas. Then the book branches off with scattered switches between childhood memories, positive and negative experiences in the Navy and other jobs, and religious teachings. For example, the author would write about an incident from 2005 and the next chapter would switch back to events from the 1990’s. He would discuss problems after a promotion and then a flashback chapter would follow about the author’s submarine tender assignment right out of boot camp. The pacing is slow due to these frequent time jumps, interspersed with religious reflections.
The writing style is uneven. The memoir-style parts are written in a casual, conversational tone and flow well. On the other hand, the philosophical sections are long-winded and dense. A few passages are confusing since the author will briefly reference something in his life that wasn’t previously discussed. As a result, I could only speculate about what he might have been talking about. For example, he writes about something that happened while he was working in Millington and then references a particular officer in a subsequent paragraph, even though Millington was never previously mentioned. Also, his “transformation” in Virginia is initially mentioned in passing as if the reader was already privy to this information.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The author’s positivity is apparent at every turn and his reminiscences are well written and relatable. However, the story didn’t flow well due to the issues I mentioned. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy memoirs viewed through a religious lens.
What Matters Most: Family, Friends, and Foes
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