Teas on Faith and Quirky Rabbis.
Book: Have a Little Faith: the Story of a Last Request by Mitch Albom
Publisher: Hyperion, September 2009
Got It From: The library.
Why I Read it: Curiosity, for one; spontaneity for another. It was available in the library so I snagged it.
The Rating: 4 cups of tea. I explain why in my review.
“…At some point, life is over. And then what happens? When life comes to an end?”
“You see?” He leaned back. He smiled.
“When you come to the end, that’s where God begins.” (p79)
Have a Little Faith is a short book. It’s a quick read, an easy read, with a simple enough synopsis: Mitch Albom is given an odd request from his childhood Rabbi (also called the Reb), to read his eulogy when he dies. At around the same time, Mitch meets Henry Covington, a drug dealer-turned-pastor who leads a congregation consisting of the homeless – in a church with a hole in the roof, no less. Simple enough, but Have a Little Faith is also jam-packed with powerful and moving truths, both controversial and mundane. There are so many different themes; it could leave the reader’s head spinning. But they are presented in a way that is easily accessible to readers of all or no faiths, of every age and race. More so, these simple little truths are so entirely simple, so effortlessly easy to accept, they can’t be anything else but The Truth, tiny and large and little and big.
I’m not entirely sure why Have a Little Faith didn’t elicit a 5-cup rating from me. It’s a potent read, surely, but not necessarily a life-altering one. It reaffirmed my own beliefs rather than instilled new ones, but these thoughts, actions, and words were presented in such a way that the reader can’t help but sit back, close the book, and murmur a quiet “Wow,” before continuing.
While I wasn’t moved to tears, I found myself smiling at the ease with which Have a Little Faith grew roots in me. The truths, though not always joyful in nature, left me feeling calm, my mind quieted by their sheer simplicity. I took refuge in Have a Little Faith, which encourages the reader to do so with open arms. I felt renewed, in my faiths and in myself. It’s hard not to, with passages such as these:
[Reb:] “Even in our own faith, we have questions and answers,interpretations, debates. In Christianity, in Catholicism, in other faiths, the same thing – debates, interpretations. That is the beauty. It’s like being a musician. If you found the note, and you kept hitting that note all the time, you would go nuts. It’s the blending of the different notes that makes the music.”
[Albom:] The music of what?
[Reb:] “Of believing in something bigger than yourself.” (p160)
It hit a little close to home with the title alone: Have a Little Faith. Faith. For reasons somewhat inexplicable, I have always shied from using the word “faith”, whether in reference to my spiritual beliefs or in reference to my faith in people, humanity, fate, what have you. If I called upon “faith”, I no longer had any control or say in the matter. Have a Little Faith encourages the reader to do just that, without actually outright demanding it of the reader:
[Albom:] “…I believe, as the Reb once told me, that, with a little faith, people can fix things, and they truly can change, because at that moment, you could not believe otherwise.” (p244)
Throughout the whole of Have a Little Faith, Albom never once uses quotation marks for his own speech. I felt that this heightened the importance, the significance, of what others had to say; this book was written about them, after all. I was impressed by this quiet distinction.
Have a Little Faith maintains its simple, easy attitude throughout, much like the Reb Albert Lewis, who was a constant presence throughout the whole of the story. The book oozes with his calm, smiling presence. I could easily picture him in my head, could hold debates and conversations with him, could sing with him as he so often did. Like I said earlier: this book is potent, but it’s not a poison or a drug. It’s something bigger, smaller, harder, better: truth that resonates with everyone who reads it.
So why on earth didn’t I give it 5 cups of tea? I felt like something was wrong with me, as this book is clearly capable of eliciting 5 cups from various readers. I feel, somehow, that the Reb would be okay with 4 cups. This is the kind of presence the Reb has: one that touches the soul and stays with you, singing in your head. This man was a delight to read about: the kind of man who puts a basket on the front of his walker with a red maraca gourd inside, because “I have found that if the walker looks like a shopping cart, the congregation is more comfortable.” (p157).
This man, who romanced his wife in such a direct manner:
[Reb:] “Are you seeing anyone romantically?” he inquired.
[Sarah:] “No, I’m not,” she replied.
[Reb:] “Good. Please keep it that way. Because I intend to ask you to marry me.” (p141).
Such a unique man, whose view on the nature of true love was inspired by the musical Fiddler on the Roof, and the relationship between Tevye and Golde. (p143) This made me giddy, as I adore all things Fiddler.
Poor Henry Covington didn’t hold a candle to the Rabbi. While his story was interesting, his overall person didn’t resonate with me the way the Reb’s did: from beyond the grave and through these pages, I felt him so intensely in a way I’d never experienced from any other book, fictitious or no. I think this, then, may be the reason I couldn’t give Have a Little Faith 5 cups: I didn’t feel this connection with Henry. With the Reb having such a strong, clear personality, I expected Henry and his story to ring out the same way, and it just didn’t for me, moving and touching though it was. Sorry, Henry. The Reb’s more awesome than you.
He’d be alright with 4 cups of tea. I’m sure of it.