Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Goes Down Quickly


Have a Little Faith
by Mitch Albom

Have a Little Faith does indeed go down quickly - almost too quickly. I read it about three weeks ago for a book group at my church, and the meeting of that same group had to be postponed. I find that the details of the story have already faded in my mind, and I'm going to have to give the book a skim before the book group meets in a few weeks. The short shelf life of the book inside my mind could say something about my attention span or my powers of retention. In fact, it probably does. It also, though, points to the fact that this is a book that the reader can fly through so quickly that there is not enough time or depth for it to make a real dent int the gray matter. I enjoyed it and was even moved by some parts of the story, but it has just not stuck with me.

I read Have a Little Faith in one evening - that is super fast even for me, and I am a pretty fast reader. It is the story of Mitch Albom's becoming reacquainted with his lifelong rabbi after the retired gentleman asks Albom to do his eulogy. Albom had grown up in the same synagogue his whole life, and retained his membership in that community even when he moved away as an adult. This happened to be a synagogue that kept the same rabbi for over 30 years, and the rabbi stayed on in a part-time role even after his formal retirement. Albom had moved away from his faith as an adult, and was surprised when his rabbi asked him the favor of performing his eulogy.

After Mitch Albom agreed to his rabbi's request, the two began meeting together regularly. Albom wanted to know the man as opposed to the public figure. Their relationship deepened, and Albom felt himself drawn back into a spiritual life. He realized that he missed the sense of community that a congregation can provide. In a similar pattern to his previous book Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom recounted pearls of wisdom that he learned from his rabbi, and his realization (as the older man's health faded) that he would indeed feel a tremendous loss when he died.

As all this was unfolding, Albom was also getting to know a Christian pastor in the Detroit area whose background for ministry was, shall we say, unorthodox. Henry is a recovering addict and ex-convict. He serves a congregation of the truly down and out in a building that is on its last legs. One of the strengths of Have a Little Faith is how Albom depicts his own awakening to the truth that ministry is not limited to the pious or the perfect. He comes to understand that someone who has been in the depths of self-induced despair can offer insights that those who have not experienced the struggles of addiction and poverty cannot.

Albom weaves these two relationships, and the changes that take place within his own heart, together into a pleasing whole. My only complaint is that I would have liked more - further probing into the rabbi's theology and practice, more peeks into the inner workings of Henry's mind and heart, and more self-reflection from Albom. His quick, breezy style seems to work for him - he sells a lot of books. However, I would like him to probe a little more deeply. His readers would benefit - and I suspect that he would as well.

Reverent Reader

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