4 out of 4 stars
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And Then I Met Margaret: Stories of Ordinary Gurus I’ve Met is a nonfiction book by Rob White. It can most aptly be described as a motivational memoir.
The author grew up in a small town where most of the high school graduates went to work for one of the two local factories. Thus, it was odd that he aspired to and actually attended college at the University of Massachusetts. He eventually became a teacher and, later in life, a successful entrepreneur in the real estate and restaurant industries. This inspiring book is filled with important lessons he’s learned from the people he has met throughout life’s journey. An often-occurring theme is second chances and the power of paying it forward. He shares the mistakes and disappointments that make him utterly human while showcasing the cyclical and redeeming nature of our existence.
Particularly in the first half of the book, the author often ties together lessons learned from family members or people in his hometown to the wisdom he shared with his students when he became a teacher. He recalls the kindness of a stranger that he was able to pay forward years later or advice that he was able to share to raise a young person’s esteem. The book technically is told in a nonlinear fashion. Yet, there is a natural progression through his life, as the latter portion of the book talks about his transition into real estate and some of his later adrenaline-seeking adventures. The author appropriately offers plenty of personal reflection on these events and shares their significance to him, in such a way that can help others.
A prime example of the author’s writing style is the following sentence: “In our town, few people reached ‘escape velocity’ and broke free of the gravitational forces holding them in place.” The reader learns about the traditions and atmosphere of his small town, like the unique rite of passage that occurred when young boys walked down the street in the same way that their fathers did. A central concern is the limiting mentality that was impressed upon him in his hometown and how he learned to think independently and be his own person.
One of my favorite aspects of the book was the humor of the author’s childhood logic, especially when he describes the guilt he felt after his “high-profile candy heist.” Each chapter began with a myth the author once believed. Then the chapter conveys a story from his life in which he learned a significant lesson. At the end of the chapter, that same myth is repeated along with the reality the author discovered. One of my favorite realities discovered was: “Look within--that’s where the trapping begins.” He paints a great picture of these “ordinary gurus,” such as Mr. Lampkin, who was in charge of the grounds maintenance at the University of Massachusetts. Mr. Lampkin is described as having been “intimately acquainted with every leaf on every bush, and every thorn on every rose.” The author gives respectful credit to such gurus and effectively explains the positive impact they had on him.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It was well written, thoughtful, and entertaining. I would recommend it to anyone who, like the author, is genuinely focused on being a better person and living a positive, fulfilling life.
And Then I Met Margaret
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