Mitch Albom has never failed to delve into the depths of relationships, the sometimes dark and mysteriously gray areas of our interactions with people. He has pondered what we learn in our day-to-day intersections with those we love and those we hardly know, those anchors we've lost, those we've simply shaken hands with. And in FOR ONE MORE DAY this theme of revelation and learning continues. Where TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE recounts the rekindling of a mentor relationship in the twilight years of a teacher's life and THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN reinforces the sometimes unknown impact of those we encounter in life, FOR ONE MORE DAY is about missed opportunity and the miraculous "what if."
Chick Benetto is far from perfect. Told by his father that he "can be a mama's boy or you can be a daddy's boy, but you can't be both," Chick chooses to be a daddy's boy and devotes his young life to pleasing him. Dad wants Chick to pursue baseball, which Chick does. Even after his father disappears when he's 11, Chick doesn't give up the dream and the goal of pleasing him. He continues the sport, eventually playing for a minor league team and ultimately getting the call to the majors in time to play in the World Series.
All the while, his mother raises Chick and his sister Roberta, making sacrifices they aren't even aware of. When Chick's father resurfaces to follow Chick's career, Chick doesn't tell his mother. And, in fact, all too often he puts his father first before his mother, struggling to please him.
But when Chick hurts his leg, his dreams --- and his father's dreams --- of a career in major league baseball are shattered, and Chick is left with the hollow realization that his hopes for a strong relationship with his father were ruled by that dream of a career. Slowly his father fades into the background, and Chick finds solace in the bottle. His dad never offers him a job, even when he sees Chick struggling to keep above water financially. Chick realizes how much he had neglected his mother, the one who truly was his support, in order to garner favor with his father.
All these realizations are too much for Chick, and he decides to take his own life. It's this decision that sets the scene for Albom's tale of "what if." Chick's attempt to kill himself ends up giving him the chance to spend one more day with his long-dead mother.
In a plot that might sound too fantastic to be true, Albom spins a tale of reconnection and opportunity. The book is full of reminiscences from Chick's personal papers --- notes his mom lovingly wrote him, reminders of times he didn't stand up for her and remembrances of his life. But the last day he gets to spend with his ethereal mother might well be the truest day he ever spent with her, for it is in this visit that he learns who she really was and who he really is.
Albom's writing has always touched my heart. He possesses an uncanny ability to draw out subjects so heartwarming and heartwrenching --- love, loss, faith, loyalty --- that other authors dance around but never really flesh out. Albom repeatedly strikes a chord. After learning all about Chick, his life and relationships, one can't help but be reminded of one's own existence --- missed opportunities, successes, failures, etc. If you read this book and don't ask yourself the question, "Who would I want the chance to see again, talk to again and reconcile with?" then you've missed the point. Albom wants you to read about Chick and find yourself reminiscing, recalling those people in your life who you'd give anything to see again, those times you should have walked down the other path, and those moments you wish you could relive.
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on April 1, 2008
For One More Day