Call me a snob, but there’s a certain sort of book that I tend to avoid like the plague. You know the ones: the easy-to-read misery memoirs that follow a certain formula to cue tears at specified intervals throughout the book. They very ones that are instant bookclub hits.
I realise that that makes me sound cynical. I’m not. I’m just suspicious of books that openly set out to turn on readers’ waterworks. Or that purport to contain the meaning of life which we Westerners have either lost sight of or are desperately trying to discover. Which is why I’m still not sure why I picked up a runaway bookclub bestseller I’ve been avoiding for years: Tuesdays with Morrie (or, as I prefer to call it, Tearjerkers with Morrie).
And dammit, if it didn’t make me cry.
I swear I spent the entire book determined to remain stoic. I swear I had entire conversations with myself about how the whole book was building to the cry climax. But it still managed to get me in the final pages—perhaps because the almost 200 pages before had softened me up; perhaps because the end was in sight and I’d started to relax.
For the few of you who haven’t yet read it, the book is written by sports writer Mitch Albom who’s successful financially and career-wise but who feels empty and unsatisfied. He reconnects with his wily, witty college professor, Morrie, who also happens to have been diagnosed with, and is rapidly dying from, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS, a form of motor neuron disease whose most famous sufferer is Stephen Hawking. The book catalogues Albom’s and Morrie’s life-lesson discussions, which take place on—you guessed it—Tuesdays.
Clearly I think there are better books out there and clearly I’m frustrated that bookclubs all too often opt for the easy reads—the ones that can be consumed quickly and often in one or two sittings and that offer some sort of trite statement about how to be fulfilled and happy. I mean, Albom’s follow-up book, which is obviously following that tearjerker formula and which has also proved a bookclub hit, is The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
I won’t be reading the latter, but I will admit that did get some joy out of Tuesdays/Tearjerkers with Morrie. The premise and the book are solid and I had a couple of—to quote Oprah, as feels warranted under the circumstances—‘aha moments’ while reading it. I’ll even admit I wish I had been able to meet Morrie while he was still alive and got to thinking about some incredible former teachers and mentors of my own with whom I’d love to reconnect.
I refuse to go all gooey and say Tuesdays with Morrie is a book I’d permanently borrow from someone’s bookshelf, but I wouldn’t not recommend it either. Instead I’d say recognise it for the tearjerker it is, have a quick flick through, and keep the tissues within reach when you do.