The excerpt written on the inner page is enough to make me close the book in a hurry – it sounds pretty morbid! Curiosity, however, gets the better of me and I decide to try reading a few pages. Very soon this book has me hooked! A memoir/travelogue combo, by author Nicholas Sparks’ Three Weeks With My Brother is a personal account of a three week jaunt spent with his brother as they visit many exotic places around the world. Nicholas Sparks, a bestselling author and J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) are the only contemporary authors to have a novel spend more than a year on both the New York Times hardcover and paperback best-seller lists.
A promotional travel brochure in the mail received by Sparks weaves its magic and has these two brothers off on a trip of a lifetime. But a pretty travel piece is not what this book is about! The author interweaves his entire life along with his travel descriptions. The account is very vivid – and at times its almost like a rude shock that one is transported from a very interesting childhood incident to Easter Island, Ayers Rock, or Machu Picchu, depending on what the author is describing in his travel narration.
Coming back to the morbid part; Sparks describes his share of troubles which at first glance seem more than what an average person goes through. On second thought, they are more than average! Born a middle child, he describes the pains of feeling he has never felt loved enough by his parents (this is a universal problem it seems). An aloof father a, gung-ho mother who’s motto in life is to be super tough about everything (her solution to almost every physical hurt is to apply a band-aid), a cocky elder brother (the one he goes on the trip with), and a dainty younger sister complete this family. The childhood narration is refreshing as he talks about the ups and downs of growing up. But enter adult life and the ‘average problems’ part goes out of the window. Sudden illness, deaths, more prolonged illnesses, more deaths and if that isn’t enough, an autistic child test the author’s endurance to its very limit. Yet, the story comes out as a winner.
Nicholas Sparks manages to motivate and inspire without trying to! Simply because he never pretends that what he is going through is anything less than tough and enough to break his spirits and that yes, there are moments when he barely manages to stay above water. Yet through it all, he does survive along with his brother.
The feel of the book is light although it deals with serious matters, so in the end although the series of events is supposedly enough to make one feel morbid, it simply doesn’t! The travel narrations interspersed with the personal accounts and the conversational style help maintain an entertaining tone. There is a fair sprinkling of humor thrown in when Micah, (the elder brother), is bored to death at their guides never-ending exuberance in describing ancient holy wars depicted as wall illustrations, or a bit of black comedy when again Micah scandalizes everyone by wanting to take pictures of himself lying in an ancient tomb.
Honesty shines through and makes it human enough for the reader to relate to the author. He openly discusses the loss of faith his brother experiences and how both brothers grapple with the concept of God in their lives in context of the tragedies they face. And refreshingly, the tale loses all traces of how-my-parents-destroyed-my-life type of pop Psychology by the time it reaches the end. Oh there are moments alright when they think their parents would get the first prize in the craziest parents of all time award (a Universal belief again), but there is a realization that they did the best they could. Hence, a refreshing look at families, and their idiosyncrasies, yet how there is still love and strong ties holding the family together in spite of the craziness.
In his own words. ‘It’s the story of Micah and me, and the story of our family. It’s a story of tragedy and joy, hope and support. It’s the story of how we’ve matured and changed and taken different paths in life, but somehow grown even closer. It is, in other words, the story of two journeys; one journey that took my brother and me to exotic places around the world, and another, a lifetime in the making, that has somehow led us to become the best of friends’
Needless to say, this books falls in one of the ‘Highly Recommended’ slot!