4 out of 4 stars
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Rob White seems like the kind of person who’s been told far too many times, “You should write a book!”, and for good reason. Judging from the anthology that is And Then I Met Margaret, his life has not been lacking in laughter and lessons, and the clear way that White imparts the wisdom from snapshots of his life upon the reader makes it easy to become an eager pupil. In this witty and insightful collection, the author shares stories from his youth that center around breaking the mold in a small town where tradition is treated as essential, success as a savvy businessman, and family life as a human being who feels the need to protect their pride. Each story centers around someone or something that seems ordinary, but had a profound effect on the author’s life philosophy, and in opening up, White seems to ask readers also to challenge their world view vicariously.
And Then I Met Margaret came to me at a time in my life when I wasn’t expecting to need it, but after making a complete fool of myself during an impeccably-researched but not impeccably-received speech, I happened across chapter 16: It’s Just Me. Like me, the author proceeded to suffer a real wave of embarrassment onstage, and the way he handled it gave me a special and much-needed new perspective on my own mistakes.The way Rob White writes is like listening to an old friend, someone who really cares about what they’re saying and why they’re saying it, and I think that’s why the book had such a profound effect on me. Even though I’ve always regarded nonfiction anthologies as cheesy at best, I feel like I was able to absorb true value from the volume.
Structure-wise, I appreciated the fact that it was chronologically-oriented. As a reader, that helped me line up all of the stories in my mind in a way that made sense, as well as giving me a better grasp on who the author is as a person, which can be taken as a kind of characterization. The way he followed his physical growth lined up with the progression of his emotional growth, which was harmonious with the purpose of the book itself and turned out to be another big plus for me. Also speaking of structure, the way White begins each chapter with a myth he believed and ends with a truth to replace it kept me focussed on the individual meaning of each story, and I found it brilliant for this work especially.
Overall, I found certain stories to be more profoundly inspirational than others, and I didn’t entirely love every one of them, but I got some form of value from each, even when it felt like the author was stretching to attribute meaning to them. In addition, it didn’t feel like a typical “inspirational” book, because the focus was on making the best of life’s curveballs, instead of how to avoid them with a shaky solution, like positive thought. It was indeed catered to the mentally stable members of the upper-middle class, but I didn’t have a problem with that, because that’s who the author is as a person. It was nice to see a portrayal of life as not all roses, but not all despair, either.
This is the first out of three books I’ve reviewed that I believe deserves a 4 out of 4 stars. If it had not been published yet, I would certainly deem it ready for release. And Then I Met Margaret expanded my genre repertoire, and it deserves a recommendation to nonfiction lovers and fiction lovers alike, if not as a favorite, than at least a palate cleanser that freshens the mind rather than bogging it down. After reading, I find myself looking forward to Rob White’s future work as a break from my typical terrifying fare.
And Then I Met Margaret
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