I grew up 90 miles south of Detroit and if you wanted real sports news in my town, you went to the local magazine store and picked up the Detroit Free Press. So my first experience with Mitch Albom was reading his regular column in the Free Press. Around the same time, I was also an avid reader of the Sporting News, which was a much different beast than its current form. Heck, Larry King and Furman Bisher had weekly columns in the Sporting News. These journalists have taken different routes to fame and the only one that stayed true to his sports writing roots was Furman Bisher I think. Albom still dabbles in sports, but I am betting that most of his cash flow comes from book deals.
It’s the story of Chick Benetto, a guy who’s having a really bad day. You see, he just found out that his daughter got married and didn’t invite him to the wedding. This, after a long spell of family problems that started about eight years previous when his mother died. And man, he really mistreated his mother while she was alive. He was kind of an ass actually. So, he tries to kill himself by getting drunk and driving like a crazy man back to the home he grew up in. He runs off the road and rolls the car a couple of times, then walks the last few miles. When he gets to his home, his dead mother is there, just acting likes it’s a regular day. He gets to spend the day with her and sort things out. It’s touching.
This is a worthy theme. The point is, you should be thinking about how you’ve treated your loved ones and if you need to make amends, DO IT NOW! That’s part of the role of art, to get a certain point across that does not slap you in the face as you go about your day. Sometimes it takes a work of fiction to get some clarity. Or maybe a good movie. Or maybe a painting or a play.
If this theme of “return” interests you, I have another option for you. Go check out the movie Volver, with Penelope Cruz. My wife and I just saw it the other day. Very good. The similarities to Albom’s book are eerie, but Volver goes about getting the point across much differently. Pedro Almodóvar wrote and directed it and he adds a lot more peaks and valleys to the story. Also, Albom’s book has a somber tone throughout but Almodóvar throws in more humor and a much darker twist than Albom’s. In the end, notwithstanding that one’s a book and one’s a movie, I think Volver digs a little deeper into the mother/child relationship and leaves more of a lasting impression.