4 out of 4 stars
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And Then I Met Margaret, by Rob White, is a non-fictional motivational standalone book. Originating from a humble proletarian family in a small town of America, Mr. White worked his way up to become a very successful real estate developer. Later on, he became a successful restaurateur as well. Mr. White then reinvented himself again, as a philosopher and author. Throughout his life, he not only tried to attain material success, but also endeavored to inculcate spiritual and philosophical enlightenment. The book reflects his lifelong efforts to realize and reinvent himself. Through a roughly sequenced structure, it highlights different experiences, trying to enlighten us, instead of putting forward a straightforward autobiographical narrative.
How does a person, not yet in his thirties, review a book which primarily presents the honest emotions of a human being aged twice than him and who has achieved a trillion times more than what he has? The first emotion that I felt when I started reading this book was that of absolute fear. I was overwhelmed. Then the gradually emerging feeling was of submission, as I tried to emulate the emotional nakedness with which Mr. White narrated his feelings. As I slowly tried understanding the minute emotions embedded within each experience, I realized that there is no ego functional here. The work never feels like a highbrow autobiography of a man who has achieved a lot. Instead it appears as if the author, with a critical eye, is writing about the experiences of a fictional character who is silly and vulnerable, who sometimes does things that almost erode his dignity. However the truth is that these are real experiences, which appear this much convincing only because of the narrator’s humility.
The feel of fiction arises from the nature and form of the narrative as well. The simplicity with which Mr. White portrays his worlds reminded me of the great Gabriel Garcia Marquez, especially of the way in which he developed the world of the Buendia family in the landmark novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. The language is simple. The words are few, but extremely accurate. The images formed are crystal clear. Mr. White, just like Mr. Marquez, depicts alive and functional worlds with only a few lines. In terms of structure too, there are traces of fictional treatments. Each story has a set-up, a rising action, and a climax. Consequently each story independently is an extremely interesting read. Mr. White understands how small things can create differences. We often say 90% in order to indicate a large portion of something. Mr. White puts it as 90.5%, making it different and weirdly funny. He does not fear being weird in order to be funny.
The fact that the author characterizes extreme narrative grasp is clear in the first few pages itself. The beginning paragraphs of the introduction are highly enlightening, yet deeply conscious of their repetitiveness. As a reader I found the words "And then I met…" to be a relief after the forceful presentations of similar constructions in these previous few paragraphs. This was exactly the emotion that the writer endeavored to evoke. It is as if a sense of relief has been attained when we realize that every person around us can educate us. The feeling, like the stories, is mundane, yet special. The words "And then I met…" have never been this well earned.
The work feels special also because it endorses the act of breaking free. In countless movies and books I have observed that the act of detaching oneself from his or her tradition is perceived somewhat negatively. This is not one of those works. However, that does not mean that Mr. White has no feelings when it comes to his family and his background. He feels, because he made us feel, about his aunt, about his uncle, and about a certain shop of a certain Mr. Vitim, which too taught him something. This was an exotic world which was established purely upon trust and human interactions. It was a patient time when shopkeepers used to believe that their customers would put a penny in while taking a candy out. It was a world that the immediacy of the draped digital world can hardly fathom.
But for all its achievements in terms of creating environments and characters, this work is primarily about what we feel about ourselves. It is about knowing more through little and big incidents in life. As I went on reading, I started asking myself, why am I reviewing this book? Why do I even read books for that matter? Is an event just a time capsule, or is it the beginning of a chain reaction? As indicated in the book’s prologue, a magic will continue to exert its influence long after it is over.
For all these realizations, and for some more, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The only flaws in the work are the typos. Even these are very few. It is an inspirational book that teaches a lot of things. The most important lesson is that we live in a world full of potentiality, where everyone deserves importance and respect. This book belongs to that special category of works reading which we derive different meanings at different points of our lives. Therefore I recommend it to every person of all ages, because all of us share that one thing which this work really is about, life.
And Then I Met Margaret
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