It’s a question the bereaved have been asking themselves for years – what would you do if you could have one more conversation with a loved one who’d died?
That’s what Mitch Albom investigates in For One More Day. The main character, Chick Bennetto, is a down on his luck drunk. He traces his downfall back to his mother’s death nine years previously. Following her death, Chick descends into alcoholic dependency and manages to alienate and lose his wife and daughter.
Finally, at the height of his desperation, he decides to return to his hometown and end his life. However, an accident en route to the house severely wounds him, and he staggers to the old family home. However, when he enters the house, his mother is there, seemingly alive and unaware of the fact that she was buried years ago!
From this point the book follows the conversations he has with his mother and the insights he gains from them. The narrative is interspersed with flashbacks to childhood scenes, addectionate letters from his mother and his own instances of when she stuck up for him and when he let her down.
And I think that this paints a touching picture of how someone’s life is shaped growing up. Sure, those conversations with his mother give great insight into how Chick Bennetto grew up. But the flashback sequences are an insight into how hard he worked for the approval of an absent father and took his devoted mother for granted.
The pacing of the book is excellent. The chapters are short and you find yourself wanting to read ‘just a few more pages’ until you’re finally at the end. And Albom tells a warm and human story, with easily identifiable characters. The sacrifice of Bennetto’s mother, for example, is a testament to the nurturing and kind nature we relate to in maternal figures.
If I have one criticism of the book, it’s that in Chick gaining all this understanding through a virtual miracle, it’s taken away from him. The character dies five years later, after reconciling with his daughter and becoming friends with his ex-wife again. But perhaps that’s the beauty of the story – it’s recorded for future generations – by his own daughter as it’s revealed at the end of the book.
This is definitely one to make you think. As much about the difference you can make on other people’s lives just by showing a little presence and kindness now.