Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

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Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

Category: Spirituality and Religion
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Not preachy, just a gentle, involving character study of a good, kind man that I found both moving and thought-provoking.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: September 2009
Publisher: Sphere
ISBN: 978-1847442918

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One day, Mitch Albom's eighty-two year old rabbi asks him to write his eulogy. Thinking that he must be close to death Albom reluctantly agrees, but decides to meet with 'the Reb' to try to get to know him better as a man first. What then develops is an eight year friendship as Albom continues to regularly meet with the Reb, who was obviously stronger than he looked, discussing life and religion and death and love. At the same time Mitch becomes involved with a pastor in Detroit called Henry, a reformed drug dealer, who is preaching from an old, run-down church with no power, no heat and a hole in its roof. Albom relates the Reb's story, and thoughts on life, against the back drop of the struggling Henry, querying issues like forgiveness, doubt and faith.

It's a beautiful character study of his old rabbi, 'The Reb' and for this reason gets the four stars. I grew to love him through the book and I was genuinely moved at the end when he died. I felt much less involved in Henry's story, I think perhaps because Mitch Albom himself is very distant and stand-offish towards him for so long, and so very judgmental that it was hard to get to know Henry himself. I felt the two halves of the story didn't mould together very well, and I didn't really like Albom's attitude towards Henry, so I would eagerly speed read those bits just to get to the next part about the Reb.

Albom cleverly sits himself safely on the fence with regards to religion, adopting a catch-all 'let's just all be happy for each other that we each believe our own thing' stance. Of course, he knows that it's impossible for the world to share this view. He even tells a story within the book of the Reb having befriended a Christian minister, inviting him along to the synagogue, and the minister having stood up to speak only to then implore the congregation to pray that the Reb would accept Jesus as his Lord and saviour because he, the minister, couldn't bear to see such a good man going to hell! It seems all faiths have issues with just sitting back and accepting another's beliefs without interferring. The Reb himself seems all the more inspirational because of his own gentle, accepting ways - perhaps if all religions just expended all their efforts in taking care of people, in loving people, then the world might be a different place.

I enjoyed the reflections and discussions on life, death and religion. One moment in particular made me laugh, as Mitch sits talking to his rabbi: Even his personal prayer book was old and fraying, stuffed with clippings and held together with rubber bands.
'I have what I need,' he said, surveying his messy shelves. 'Why bother chasing more?'
You're like that Biblical quote, I said. What profits a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?
'That's Jesus.'
Oops, sorry, I said.
'Don't apologize,' he said, smiling. 'It's still good.

The Reb comes across as so very gentle, and understanding. Of course you know from the start that he will die - his request for a eulogy from Albom is what has started the whole thing in the first place - yet it is still a surprise when it happens and I felt a lump in my throat and had to stop for a moment before continuing to read.

The eulogy itself actually came as a disappointment to me in the end. After all the expectation and build up I felt that he had just rehashed and abbreviated what I'd already read in the book. Perhaps it's better to see the whole book as being the eulogy, a work of love. And with its instant bestseller status the Reb won't see his biggest fear about death - being forgotten - fulfilled, for he'll become alive in the minds and hearts of many thousands of people across the world.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion:For a more intellectual look at religion you might want to try The God I Don't Understand by Christopher J H Wright. There is also a book that looks at the idea of kindness that may be of interest: On Kindness by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor.

Buy Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom at Amazon.com.


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