Some of you may know that a guy named Nicholas Sparks is a pretty well-known author. If you've never read any of his books, you may have seen some of the films based on his work: A Walk to Remember, or Message in a Bottle, or maybe The Notebook. The Notebook, so far, is the only of his novels that I've read. Recently I was told that I should read the memoir that he wrote, Three Weeks With My Brother.
As an aspiring writer, I was told that this book could be inspirational to me. The memoir tells two stories. One, on the surface, is the story of a three week trip around the world that the author took with his brother, Micah. The other story is that of the two brothers and all the events that shaped their lives leading up to this once-in-a-lifetime journey.
I'll be honest, the reason I picked up the book was to see what it took for Sparks to become such a well-known author. The man had never even considered writing until one summer, home from college, he was bored. So his mother suggested that he spend his time writing. Even though it wasn't something he'd ever thought about doing, he took to it and finished a book that summer. He admitted that it was nowhere near good enough to be published. But at that point, he simply wanted to see if he could do it. And he made a good point, it's easy to start a novel, but it's another thing entirely to finish one.
Turns out, he would go on to write a second book, but deemed it unpublishable as well. His third attempt, however, was The Notebook. He sent out letters to literary agents and got a response from only one. But that one was all it took. She arranged for a publisher, who in turn bought the novel for a tidy sum of $1 million. Yeah, that's why I read this book. I mean, I'd be happy if I could finish a novel and sell it for a few thousand.
But something happened while I was reading this book. I got emotionally involved. These brothers, over the span of roughly a decade, lost their mother, father, and little sister. When reading about the deaths of each of their parents, I know my eyes began to get a little blurry, filling with tears that didn't quite escape. But then, toward the end, when reading about the death of their sister, Dana, I began sobbing uncontrollably. It was a little ridiculous, actually.
I don't remember ever becoming emotional when reading a book. Not like that anyway. Sure there are times, when reading a novel, I'll laugh out loud or feel angry or frustrated over something a character is doing, but I don't think I've ever cried like that before.
This is probably the first memoir I've really read. And I don't think I've read any biographies either. Perhaps my emotion was drawn from the fact that I knew that these were real people with real struggles. They weren't just figments of someone's imagination whose issues were merely symbolic. In reading about Nicholas and Micah's lives from the very beginning, it's as if I came to know them. I felt the same admiration for their mother that they had. I felt the same concern for their father when his life seemed to spiral downward. I felt the same love for their sister and the heartbreaking sorrow of knowing that she would eventually give in to the cancer, it was only a matter of time.
The description on the back of the book tells the reader that the two brothers are the last surviving members of their family. So going into this thing, I knew that there would be loss. When the parents were introduced and when Dana was born, I knew that tragedy was on its way.
I guess that's true in life as well. Death is inevitable. We all know it's coming. We will all eventually lose someone we love. It's just a question of when. So what is it that we do with the time before death?
So initially I read this book hoping for an instruction manual. But I discovered that it wasn't a how to book on becoming a writer. It turned out to be an inspirational story of learning to live life to its fullest and not taking a single thing for granted.
I won't sit here and say that it's a lesson I've learned. For the most part, I'm sure, I'll still be the semi-heartless jerk that I've always been. Then again, maybe I'll start calling my sister more often, just to let her know I love her.