“Say Not What If” is about a man on death row, and has as its theme the concept that time is our most valuable commodity. As someone once said, “waste anything but time, because we really are promised no tomorrows.” This theme is explored through the life of a man who sacrifices his marriage and everything else for his career. He realizes much too late the terrible consequences of this decision, and then desperately tries to regain those lost years by making a much worse choice. The resolution of this latter choice involves an additional examination of the concepts of accountability and responsibility, redemption, and the morality of the death penalty. (from Goodreads)
This exceptional book is a short story, (approximately 10,000 words), written as a rhyming poem, which really makes it a long, (51 page), poem! However you choose to describe it, however you choose to summarize it, this literary work is something incredibly special.
I was not sure how I would feel about a long prose-poem, and I was a little intimidated by it. However, it did not take long for me to know how I felt about the book itself. I was hooked by the second page.
Most of us can probably relate to a story of a man spending too much time away from his family, and not enough time appreciating the time he has on this earth. Why is it that we can all find ourselves in this situation, even when the world around us is filled with examples of how “not-to”? I am reminded of two famous sayings: “Learn by example” and “Learn by our own mistakes”. Which one is correct? Or are they both correct?
The main character in this short story is depicted, in the beginning, as one who has a passion for his job, or if not a passion, then dedication and loyalty. When everyone else leaves for the day, he and his boss remain. And it is clear that he believes this is the way to get through life, the way that will lead to a wonderful time of retirement.
Reading the opening stanza, it seems as though this man’s life theory is: to live for the day. “Say Not What If”, embrace life and all it offers. We learn, almost immediately, that this philosophy of life was only arrived at after some big moments of regret. The bulk of the story finds the main character struggling with his life choices.
While it might be tempting to read this book in one short period of time, I would caution against this. I took multiple sittings, as the subject matter was heavy, even though the style of writing was light. And as the book progressed I was pleased with the slower pace of my reading.
As I read his story, I could not help but feel pain for the main character. But also pain for those of us living part, or all of our lives, saying “what if”. For a short book, this story addresses major life issues, ones which the reader will find speak to the core of our beings. The author has the skill to reach directly into our hearts, souls, and minds – in a very short amount of time.
I highly recommend this book, and hope that we as readers, will learn life lessons that will stay with us for the rest of our journey.
I would like to thank Andrew Friedman, for providing a complimentary copy of his book, for my review.
“Where is the Joy?”!!!!!
My very next post, after deciding I would ask that question at the end of any post, I forgot! Maybe no one else remembered either!!
So, where is the Joy in this post, in this book? I thought that might be a challenging question, given the subject matter of the book “Say Not What If”, (maybe that’s why I ‘forgot’!??).
However, the answer came quite easily. I found Joy in the rhyming pattern of the stanzas, in the flow of the words, and from there the images of what was being depicted.
That was the Joy.