4 out of 4 stars
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In my city, there is this guy who checks out the Music and a Movie night at our local park with his pet parrot tagging along. It is one of the things I love about my city, this meeting of quirky individuals. It is also one of the quirky things that we discover about Rob White in his book And Then I Met Margaret. He has a pet parrot, Shakespeare, which he takes on walks. And I think that is fantastic.
And Then I Met Margaret by Rob White is a series of short stories from the life of White. Each chapter begins with a myth that he believed. For example, White starts off his book with this myth: “Kindness is an act of self-interest.” (p. 7) In his short stories he shows how his belief in a particular myth impacts his life, and then he demonstrates how his beliefs were changed, and the reality that was then exposed. The discovered reality for the aforementioned myth found at the beginning of Chapter One: “Kind acts demonstrate the height of love.” (p. 14)
Throughout the book, we travel with White from his small town roots, through his days of teaching, his life of entrepreneurship, his victories and defeats, and even some very embarrassing moments. And through it all, he shares what he has learned along the way.
I expected that I would be able to enjoy this book. I did not expect to love it, and yet I did. If a book is well-written and edited, I can usually find at least some appreciation of it. But there was something about the small town roots that was so familiar to me. I haven’t lived in a small town since I was a teenager, and my life is completely different than his, yet so many times I felt myself thinking, “I recognize this.” And it was that familiarity that drew me into the book, but it was White’s storytelling, his willingness to tattle on himself, and even brag a little, and his unapologetic weirdness (going on a walk with a parrot, anyone?) that kept me engaged until the very end.
Beyond his great storytelling, those who are willing to see a little of themselves in his stories might also be able to learn something about how they live in the world, and maybe how they might live a little bit better. White is not some perfect example of what to do, or even how to live, but it is his awareness of that, and willing introspection that helps him to move toward being just a little bit better person.
Interestingly, I was not a huge fan of the myth/reality dynamic that he had at the beginning and end of each chapter. The main reason for this is that it takes pretty deep observations and makes them into something that sound a bit like a campaign slogan. I can see where others may find them useful, but they didn’t quite work for me.
Overall this book is beautifully edited, and I only noticed a couple of mistakes. I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The very minor issues I had with it are very easily overlooked. People who like motivational books, great storytelling, and memoirs would enjoy this book. I can also see this being an unusual graduation gift for high school seniors who like to read, as it is a quick read about making life decisions and shows how even “successful” people do not have everything go perfectly without bumps in the road.
And Then I Met Margaret
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