by Mitch Albom
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novel
In this fable, the first man on earth to count the hours becomes Father Time.
The inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.
He returns to our world - now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began - and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I thought this book sounded like a quick, interesting read with a unique premise. While I did enjoy some of the aspects of the story, I didn't like others. Much of my opinion about this book is subjective, though; I'm sure some people will like it for the same reasons that I disliked it.
Please, dear author, I want some more...
I can honestly say that I've never read a book that features Father Time as a character. So that piqued my interest in the first place. I did enjoy the fable aspect -- even though it did make the story seem a little too simplistic at times -- and I do appreciate what Albom was trying to do here. Unfortunately, the execution of the idea in this case means that some people will love the book and others might feel a bit alienated.
It's all a matter of taste...
I suppose it's my own fault for not realizing that this is, basically, Christian fiction. I'm not a Christian, and most of the Christian fiction I've read has left me cold. I can't really relate to where the author is coming from, and I get a little annoyed by the implication that a certain way of thinking is the only way. This book is especially guilty of that. From the punishment of Dor for simply being intellectually curious to the deterministic ideas about God's plan for each life to the judgmental attitudes about suicide, the story is steeped in certain religious ideas that can be fairly off-putting to someone who doesn't share the same faith. I was especially annoyed with the whole discussion of suicide. One character attempts it and it's implied that they really didn't have a reason because other people have it so much worse. This sort of judgment really bothers me because it shows a lack of empathy and compassion; just because one person in a difficult situation can handle it doesn't mean that another person in a different difficult situation can. Then we end up minimizing the problems of others. So that really bothered me.
The other issue I have is with the plot itself. I don't understand why Dor was "punished" (it's apparently not a punishment to lock someone in a cave by themselves for six thousand years and let them listen to people's anguished cries; it's a "blessing"). The book says Dor sought to control time. As far as I can tell, he only sought to measure it. Nobody human can control time, so punishing Dor for something that he wouldn't be able to do in the first place seems like a really cruel thing to do. Also, why was he the only one punished? Everyone who came after measured time, and they got away with it (this part of the story was also not explained very well; Dor was exiled away from civilization, so how he somehow taught the whole rest of the world how to count the hours is beyond me). I mean, I'm all for fantasy and fables, but they have to make sense.
Let's get technical...
The story is written in simple language, and it seems relatively polished. (Although, I may just be saying that because I've recently read quite a few self-published books that haven't been edited very well at all.) However, Albom does phrase things in a confusing way sometimes. There were a few points in the book where I just didn't understand a sentence at all!
If you enjoy reading Christian fiction, you might get some enjoyment out of this book. However, if you don't, you might find some of the same things as problematic as I did. With some of the plot holes fixed, this would have been a stronger book... but I'm still not sure if I would have liked it. Christian fiction just doesn't seem to be my thing.
There are as many expressions with "time" as there are minutes in a day.
But once, there was no word for it at all. Because no one was counting.
Then Dor began.
And everything changed.
Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs