Wednesday, March 26, 2014

lucky man: a memoir - a review

I read this a while ago. Normally I write reviews as soon as I finish a book, but for some reason I just didn't have anything to say about this one. When I read Always Looking Up I was impressed by so many things about Michael J. Fox's articulate, insightful, entertaining way with words. I hadn't expected much and my expectations had been greatly exceeded. Reading this much more traditional memoir - a chronological telling of Fox's first 40ish years from army brat to Parksinson's advocate - was interesting, but less telling. In many ways, reading this book second proved Fox's argument in Always Looking Up that his diagnosis with Parkinson's disease has made him a better - or at least a more thoughtful and outward-looking - man.

I don't get the sense, at least from his own telling of his story, that Michael J. Fox has ever been a particularly terrible person. He skipped a little school, liked drama better than math, started drinking too early and then too much - but he never seems cruel or unjust so much as lost and self-absorbed. Then he met Tracey Pollan who straightened him out somewhat but not enough to stop the boozing. And then he got Parkinson's and started caring about something bigger than himself and got dry and started his foundation. It's a redemption story of someone who really didn't seem to need that much saving, relatively speaking. 

Perhaps the problem with Lucky Man is that it ends just as Fox is getting going in his Parkinson's advocacy. Perhaps it was that in Always Looking Up Fox's focus is more philosophical and less a series of events and I'm not really a plot-based reader. Or, maybe I just preferred Always Looking Up because I read it first. It also seemed like Fox's language skill grew between the two books, which I suppose is a natural evolution.

It's not that I found anything particularly 'wrong' with Lucky Man. Overall, I was just left wishing I had read it first. Lucky Man provides a foundation for some of the discussions in Fox's second book, whereas reading Lucky Man second meant waiting for him to get to some cool points in the story (such as the growth of the Fox foundation, or his political involvement in stem-cell research advocacy) which didn't actually happen within the book's time-frame. If you haven't read either of Fox's books, start with Lucky Man and go from there. If you've already read Always Looking Up, you may find Lucky Man a bit flat.
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(NB: there were some ladies in my book club who wished Always Looking Up was more linear; if you are the kind of person who likes linear, you may enjoy Lucky Man more than I did.) 

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