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Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Moment to Change My Life


            When I was a senior in high school I took a class on contemporary literature.  During the course of the class we had the opportunity to choose a book from a given list to read as a topic for an oral report.  I was absent the day the class was given the list and asked to pick their book.  So, when I got the list there were only two books left to choose from.  One was a biography on some baseball player and the other was After the First Death by Robert Cormier.  Since I really had no interest in reading about a baseball player’s life at that point in my life, I went with the Cormier book.


            After the First Death is a book that is about a bus full of camp children that gets hijacked by a couple of terrorists.  It’s a very intense book.  I read the bulk of the book in class.  I was 18 and really had no applicable knowledge of terrorists or what they did.   The whole book was a very reality altering experience for me.

            In the book, the girl driving the bus is a teenager.  She takes her responsibility for the small children on the bus seriously.  She really works at trying to solve the problems brought about by the invasion of the terrorists in what she thought was a safe world. 

            As I read the book, the world around me really shifted.  It’s not like I had not dealt with death before.  I’d lost great grandparents.  A close family friend had a very sudden tragic accident when I was still in grade school.  My great aunt, with whom my mom was very close, was murdered by her husband when I was in 8th grade.  I’d lost numerous pets.  But, none of those rocked my reality the way this book did.

            In psychology class we were told that developmentally, most people do not fully understand mortality until somewhere around age 18.  I remember being told that just a few months before reading this book and thinking, “That’s silly; we all know that people die.”  I will never forget the realization that I had not understood until the moment I read the end of this book.

            There are deaths that happen in the book.  It’s the ending that really got to me.  Without giving away what happens in case anyone wants to read it, it is a punch to the heart and throat constricting.  I could feel myself right there in the story.  I fully understood the thoughts and feelings that were happening with the girl who was the bus driver.  And, I finally understood exactly the concept of my own mortality.  The earth shifted under me and I’ve not been the same since. 

Is there a book that changed things for you or changed the way you see the world?








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37 comments:

  1. I read a book a few years ago, "Same Kind of Different as Me." It is a true story, written from the alternating view points of two men living in Fort Worth. One a black homeless man and another a white man who deals in art. It was fascinating to read how their lives wove together. I remember thinking every black person should read this to understand white folks better and the converse -- that every white person should read this to get a glimpse of what is it like to walk around with skin of color. Such a simple, powerful book that forever changed my way of looking at things.

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    1. I am going to have to read that. I have worked in predominately black inner city neighborhoods all my teaching career. In 20 years of teaching I've only seen a total of 4 white students in the four different buildings I've worked in and none of them have come through my classroom. I may have to recommend it to my co-workers as well. Thanks for suggesting it!

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  2. I hadn't heard of this book. I'm definitely going to find a copy.

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  3. Wow, I love to read but nothing that really stuck with me. You make me want to read this book. Thanks! :)

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    1. It's worth reading if you are ok with books that do not have happy endings.

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  4. Sounds like a great book, although tough subject. I'd have to go buy a case of Kleenex before starting that one!

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    1. Yes, Kleenex are necessary. I had the misfortune of reading the ending of it sitting in my desk in class. I had to ask for a pass to the restroom.

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  5. I just looked it up on Amazon and the Kindle version doesn't come out until 3/19. I put it on my wish list. :)

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    1. I saw that. I was surprised it is not available already because it's original publication date was 1979.

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  6. Sounds like a good book. I felt my world shift after I read "A Hundred Secret Senses" by Amy Tan and "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by Khaled Hosseini.

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    1. I will have to try those. Thanks for the suggestions.

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  7. I may have to put this on my To Read list.

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  8. I looked at a lot of things differently after reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. (It's a lot different from the movie, but I love them both.) It made me see the pressure to conform everywhere.

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    1. You know I've never read that book or seen the movie. I think I'm going to have to put it on my to read list.

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  9. I can't say I've ever read a book that grabbed me quite this way, but I think most people experience that moment where you realize the true finality of death. It really does stand out when it happens, whether from a book or from events.

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    1. I think you are right. For some it may be the loss of a loved one or even a major national event. And, I'm sure some experience earlier or later, but it really is a growth moment.

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  10. I'm not sure I can think of one specific book that altered my perception of life in such a dramatic way. However, I do really enjoy reading either historical fiction or just fiction from cultures other than my own because they get me to see the world from a new perspective.

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    1. Oh, I LOVE Historical Fiction. Tracy Chevalier is one of the best at this. Oh, and I really like Ken Follet. Have you read his Pillars of the Earth? So Good!

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    2. YES! I was so excited when I finally got my hands on A World without End, until I got halfway through it and it felt like 'a book without end'. I was so disappointed and have never finished it.

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  11. Thank you for introducing me to a new book. I'll add it to my list.

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  12. I've never heard of this book, but I'm going to check it out. I can't say that I agree or don't with the idea of not being able to really understand mortality until age 18. I want to think that I did understand it, but maybe not. It's hard to say.

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    1. The age 18 is just an average type thing. I'm sure it happens for others at different times, but AROUND 18 is the most common. It's just like anything else it happens differently and at different times for each. And, there is a difference between knowing about mortality and really understanding your own mortality.

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  13. It's crazy how much a book can shape the way you see things. For me, oddly enough, it was reading a Stephen King book on apocalyptic plague...it totally got me thinking about how I would handle massive, worldwide trauma like that. Weird, I know, but it totally shifted the way I saw the world.

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    1. I know that book. It really does make you think about things like that.

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  14. Sounds funny, but The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet. Truly. They changed my life.

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    1. I read those. They are great books and I can see how they could change things for people.

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  15. I want to read this! I can't think at the moment of a book that changed me, but I know there have been many that kept me up at night to read--and then after. That's the thing about great writing: it gets to us, shakes us and impacts real life.

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    1. I agree. There are many books that will always have a place inside of me because of their incredible writing.

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  16. Wow, talk about an intense book. As much as I'd like to think I could read this, I tend to shy away from suspenseful and/or scary books b/c I scare easily (oh, and did I mention I'm prone to nightmares?). One book that changed my life? Life of Pi. How Pi finds God -- through Hinduism, Catholicism and Islam -- made me realize that by encountering the divine in a way that speaks directly to our soul we can fully realize how interconnected we all are.

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    1. Yes, if you are prone to nightmares, this is not the book for you. Life of Pi sounds great, I'll have to give it a try.

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  17. I have never heard the idea about not understanding mortality till you are 18, but it makes sense. Interesting.

    I'm not familiar with this book. Thanks for sharing it!

    A few titles that have rocked my world (in no particular order): In Cold Blood, Bonfire of the Vanities, Room With a View, The Unbearable Lightness of Being...

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    1. Thanks for sharing yours, too! I'll have to read them!

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  18. Books can be transforming. In college, Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children' had a big effect on me. A couple of years ago I read a book called 'On Agate Hill'. It's historical fiction, but the overall theme is grief. It really made me think about how we deal with sadness, and how no matter happens around us, we must persevere. I must say, I grieved over the main character for months after reading it because she was so real to me. I don't think I've ever been touched quite that way by a book before.

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    1. Wow, that sounds like something I would love. I will have to read it! Thanks for sharing!

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