An unconventional book deserves an unconventional review. So, here. we. go.
This book almost got me in trouble. Scratch that. This book did get me into trouble, although the trouble was short-lived and easily explained away. It was the Saturday morning of my son’s first birthday party. And I was sitting in my in-law’s new living room enjoying a cup of coffee and reading about a hand-basket headed to hell. Despite what you may think, the story is quite humorous. And so I did what people do when their humor bone is struck. I laughed. Out loud. A true LOL moment (true, because most times people say “LOL” they didn’t really). The problem was that while my lovely wife and her mother were in the same room, they were in another world, one involving Google, Peter Pan and my son’s future Halloween costume and they had no idea about the humorous hand-basket. You can see where there is going. My LOL happened only moments after my wife had pondered aloud if she could make the costume. *Head snap in my direction* “Are you laughing at me? You don’t think I can do it??” “No, No,” I stammered. “It’s the book. It’s funny. There’s a jetway and an airport and a two-year old and he’s puking and the older brother is puking. And there are no trash cans. And the dad…I’m…I’m not laughing at you. I promise.” *Raised eyebrow. Back to Googling and plotting first-born Halloween cuteness*
The range of emotions Wilson evokes are pretty much of all them. Laughter. Fear (the good kind). Sadness. Remorse. Hope. Warmth. Confusion (there was one section toward the end where I had no idea what was happening. There was a sea and a storm and a sign and fishermen and darkness. But, I blame my incoherence on the midnight reading, not the author). Gratitude. Regret. Anger. Awe. Wonder. But what else would you expect from a book about living. Everyone who dies, lived. And while death is prominent in the title, and present throughout the book, the main thrust of the book is an invitation to life. And not just life. But life lived well. A life lived not for self, but for others.
Tortilla chips. All I needed was tortilla chips. Mexican food is at a premium in this house. The fine lady who is my wife and who plans the menus in our house is not fond of it. This is especially true when she is with child, as she is now. I, however, could eat it every day. But, now and then, Mexican food appears on the menu (I am well-loved). And when it does, I rejoice with great rejoicing. This was one of those days. And there was guacamole to boot. But we had no chips. So off to the store I go, for I would not be denied my joy. As I enter the first set of Star Trek doors (they open without us touching them?! This should amaze us more than it does) an elderly gentleman is about to go through the second set of doors. I catch up to him because he is slow. The weight of his story is heavy and it has taken it’s toll. Instantly I find within myself patience, which surprises me. Eventually the old character makes it through and I followed suite, heading for my chips and my Mexican delight. As I drove home, I couldn’t help but think of that old man and how dreadfully slow he was. I wondered what his story was like. What had he seen? Who had he known? Who did he love? Was he alone? What did he fear? Perhaps he was shopping for an impending visit from family. Why were they visiting? A funeral? The questions kept coming. I blame Mr. Wilson for this. You will look at people different after reading this book. If you embrace the vision that is being cast, and I hope you do, life gets upgraded to HD. If your life is a story, one being written by the very One who spoke the galaxies into existence (and it is), then that means the people you encounter at the grocery store are living stories authored by that same One who is authoring yours. How will you treat them? What role will you play in their story? What role will you play in your own? You have a say in how this will go.
In The Weight of Glory C.S. Lewis wrote:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn.We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
And our charity must be real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.
This book is an ode to that very sentiment. We are mortal, so we will die. But we are also immortal, so we will live forever. Life is a story, but as Wilson writes, it’s one “played for keeps.” There are consequences for dying poorly. And there are rewards for dying well. So, what’ll it be? If you’re reading this now, there is breath in your lungs. There is life still left. There is time yet to choose a new path. Will you continue living as if the Author does not exist? Or will you embrace your story and your Author and try to live to the fullest? I’m shooting for option two. How about you?
I heartedly recommend this book to you (five stars!! Two thumbs up!!). You can buy it here.
2 thoughts on “Book Review: “Death By Living””
Great review, and I’m totally stealing your “life gets upgraded to HD” line. 🙂
Thanks John. Feel free to use that line royalty-free (unless you reap immense riches from it somehow. Then I’m going to want my piece 😉 )
I appreciate the encouragement and glad you enjoyed it. Get the book. You won’t regret it.