As a writer, I have an inherent fascination with words. The idea that words have the power to change lives, and even the course of history, was probably one of the most intoxicating realizations of my educational career. Reading about the great speeches of important men and the impact of their words on people and nations made history more real, and more interesting, to me.
It wasn't until I reached adulthood that I realized how often we find ourselves looking at another person and wishing that we had the words to soothe their pain or ease their mind. The death of a loved one, diagnosis of a serious illness, the loss of a job or the end of a marriage are all situations that can change a person's life forever and times when most people find themselves at a loss for words. When the right words come, they offer comfort or inspiration or direction while easing the burdens and soothing the wounds of some of life's darker moments.
I wasn't certain what to expect from this book. I saw (and passed over) a well thumbed copy of the first volume at a library book sale about a week before hearing about the sequel. I found myself thinking about it again as we were preparing to check out and went back to the table only kick myself for not picking it up when it caught my attention in the first place. The thing that stopped me is that I have a serious dislike for glurge and have found that many of the anthologies of this nature that I've read definitely fit that mould.
When the book arrived, I flipped it open and read one of the essays more or less at random. The story of a father visiting ground zero and encountering a young man whose late father had been in the second tower was touching but I felt grateful that the title of the essay telegraphed so much of the contents. I'm sure that it is a personal failing, but I've had about as much as I can stand of having the personal tragedies and experiences related to 9/11 put forward to support or justify some agenda. I'm experiencing a backlash. Even when there is no agenda and no attempt to manipulate me into supporting some new atrocity.
Overall, I enjoyed most of the essays. "Jane Austin Meets the New York Giants" struck a particular chord for me and I really felt like I could identify with Nancy Roman's 5th grade experience even though I'd never been to Catholic school. There were love stories, and stories of courage, but there was an ordinariness to most of them that gave them an authenticity and a neighborly quality that removed them from the realm of manipulation. I appreciated the sincerity. It was a little like being stranded in an airport with a bunch of people of diverse backgrounds talking and sharing stories to pass the time and distract themselves while they wait.
I can't help feeling that the over-representation of 9/11 stories will leave the book feeling dated much sooner than it might otherwise, but if you are a person who loves to read heart warming stories, or you're looking for a gift for someone who is going through a rough time, this might be a nice book to tuck into a basket with some great tea, a cosy blanket, and a soothing cd.
This is the third of the sponsored reviews for Mother-Talk.com that I mentioned here. You can see the others by clicking on the review tag at the bottom of this post and following the links.