Mitch Albom, once a sports writer and now international bestselling author thanks to the popular and heartwarming "Tuesdays with Morrie," has a new fiction novel out: "The Time Keeper." The cover states that it's a "compelling fable about the first man to count the hours. The man who became Father Time."
Compelling might be too strong of a description for Albom's latest. Better words to describe his novel would be "interesting but predictable." It's eventually a feel-good tale where things work out in the end. But Albom isn't subtle about the point he's trying to make for his readers: Time is precious; and nowadays, we all spend too much "time" worrying about it or wasting it. Every reader will start to see this "moral" (it's a fable, after all) a third of the way into it.
One thing the book has going for it are two of the main characters. Albom did a good job creating sympathetic characters for Father Time and also for one of his main storylines, a girl named Sarah Lemon. His third main character, a greedy, powerful businessman who wants to cheat time, is not as engaging as the first two, but here's their story.
Dor, who eventually becomes Father Time, lives when man first came on Earth — back before time was actually counted. Dor is a "caveman." He's extremely intelligent, and he starts finding ways to count time. He also has a love: his wife, Alli. Eventually and through some fantastical events, which include the story of the Tower of Babel, Dor finds himself alone in a cave, and he becomes Father Time.
Next we are in present day, the time of smartphones, Facebook and medical breakthroughs. The story focuses on two individuals — a high school student named Sarah who is crazy for a popular boy whom she sees every week at the homeless shelter where she volunteers — and an elderly, successful businessman, Victor, who has cancer with no hope for recovery and wants more time.
Albom simultaneously tells the stories of Dor stuck in the cave for 6,000 years, overweight Sarah and the popular boy who isn't as wonderful as she thinks, and obsessed Victor, who doesn't consider anyone's feelings but his own. They remain separate stories until almost the end of the book when Sarah and Victor go to extremes to solve their problems and Dor steps in.
This is the most poignant part of the book; if you stick with the story until you reach this moment, you'll be glad you did.
But that's the problem. I'm not sure how many people will stick it out and reach the end of the story. "The Time Keeper" is one of those books that you are either going to love or hate. Some will think it's life-changing; others will think it's corny and staged. It will sell a lot of copies because of the author.
But if you are comparing "The Time Keeper" (fiction) to "Tuesdays with Morrie" (nonfiction, memoir) — there's no comparison.
"Tuesdays with Morrie" is a life-changing book, mostly because it's true and told with honesty and compassion. It seems as if Albom has been trying to recapture this true story and the success it brought in his fiction, and it just doesn't have the same punch.
"The Time Keeper" is a quick read; and if you like the author, you'll like the book. It's one of those books to get when it comes out in paperback or for discount as an e-book or maybe even from the library. If you've never read anything by Albom, then find a copy of "Tuesdays with Morrie." Now that's a terrific book.
Margo L. Dill is the author of "Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg," a middle grade historical fiction novel. She often reviews books as a columnist for "WOW! Women On Writing" e-zine and her blog, "Margo Dill's Read These Books and Use Them" (http://margodill.com/blog/ ). Formerly of East Central Illinois, she lives in St. Louis with her family.