1 out of 4 stars
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Rob White is a man from humble beginnings, who has found success in real estate, and later the restaurant business. After achieving material wealth, he turns his focus inward and finds that he is spiritually poor. And Then I Met Margaret is a collection of stories from everyday gurus that White has met throughout his life, each one teaching him a valuable lesson. These are all regular people that inadvertently taught White something about life simply by living their own.
Each chapter of the book is a different story from White’s life, featuring a different guru. Each chapter starts roughly ‘one day I was just thinking about this and it lead me to do that.’ This gets old quickly and is just an example of poor writing.
White likes to write in detail and at length about himself, his businesses, his clothes, his homes, his expensive watches, and his cars. This book is supposed to be about other people who taught him lessons in humility. He clearly doesn’t seem to heed his own advice. My favourite example of this is in a story he mentions lending a book to a college. He doesn’t say ‘a book’, it his is autographed hard copy of said book. And Then I Met Margaret is full of these unnecessary add-ons, and each time I was left offended by White’s outright bragging, but also wondering if he was simply trying to fill a word count.
As this is a memoir, from a clearly inexperienced writer, of course he’s going to write about himself. He has to set up each anecdote and why that chapter’s guru is significant. In the first few chapters I was willing to forgive this lack of grace, but it continues through the entire novel. It’s nothing but poorly written bragging.
The author has an awful superiority complex, which manifests itself in many ways. The most constant is that he used to be a teacher, and now likes to find moments to teach other people in business. These people never ask White for help, but he lords himself over unassuming victims as if he is a God. A great time this happens is when he decides that he is going to ‘inspire’ some children who couldn’t be less interested in what he has to say.
White comes across as a parody of a rich, dumb, loud, typical white American caricature. He accosts a woman in an airport by taking over her table, and talking at her, because this is what he does. He simply assumes that everyone he meets is deeply interested in his life. When he visits Tanzania, he only calls the country by its name once, choosing instead ‘Africa’ for the rest of the chapter. While in Tanzania, he sees a woman whose child is dying. In their culture there is a ritual when the child’s time is near. He writes that he ‘follows her at a respectful distance’. His presence there, following this woman at a very intimate time of her life, is obviously disrespectful. Frankly it’s disgusting.
Aside from the terrible writing and the authors obsessions with himself and his wealth, there are also the wonderful lessons he has learned. None of them are particularly revolutionary. The big moment of the book is when White finally meets Margaret, and it’s alarmingly anticlimactic. White is in his fifties at the time of this story, and it takes a child to make him realise that the world does not revolve around him. The author’s big revelation in his life is that the most important person in everyone’s life is them, and not him.
I left this book with nothing but hatred for the author. I strongly suggest that no one put themselves through the pain of reading this vanity project. I am very disappointed that we cannot award 0. I rate this a very low 1 out of 4 stars.
And Then I Met Margaret
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