Twenty years ago, the international bestselling book "Tuesdays With Morrie" was published, and since then, over 15 million copies have been sold. Millions more watched the ABC movie adaptation of the book, which starred Jack Lemmon as Morrie and Hank Azaria as author Mitch Albom. It's a short, sentimental book that honors the mutually beneficial aspects of a relationship between two individuals who are separated by a 40-year-plus age difference. Obviously, it's a book that I highly recommend — for readers young and old alike.
A similarly worthy book that was published three years ago deserves to be added to your reading list. "Dinner with Edward: A Story of an Unexpected Friendship" by Isabel Vincent captured my attention from the very first page, in part because the crux of the May-December friendship revolves around cooking, food and memorable shared meals, as with other popular confessionals like "Julie and Julia."
Vincent has written for a wide variety of prestigious publications ranging from The New York Times' T Magazine to L'Officiel to Time magazine, and she certainly knows how to tell a spellbinding story. She's the author of four earlier books, and in this volume, she recounts the unlikely friendship she established with her friend's elderly and recently widowed father. Fortunately, Edward and Isabel both live in New York City, so there is no long-distance travel needed to keep their evolving relationship on an even keel. And just like Albom, Isabel also happens to be a journalist, but there is no newspaper strike to trigger the idea of a potential book project. Instead, we follow her as she simultaneously struggles to find her own footing in the rough and tumble atmosphere of the New York Post and wrestles with marital and parenting problems at home.
Every chapter begins with a list of the dishes that Edward had prepared for each of her visits. In fact, the only flaw of this otherwise delightful book is that it doesn't include Edward's recipes or colorful directions for the best way to prepare the perfect martini, roasted chicken, pie crust or what have you.
Thanks to Albom, millions of readers fell in love with Morrie as he lived with Lou Gehrig's disease. Isabel, on the other hand, introduces us to a man in his 90s whose biggest problems include suffering from a broken heart over his wife's death, loneliness and not being able to live as robustly as he once did.
Almost preternaturally talented, Edward wins us over by bringing his sense of accomplishment, adventure and perfectionism in everything he attempts, whether it's a shopping trip to help Vincent find the most flattering outfit or the preparation of mussels remoulade. This paragraph will make any baby boomer envy Edward's can-do spirit. Vincent writes: "A while back Edward had taken on what appeared to be an impossible task. He had agreed to re-upholster his neighbors' antique sofa. Perhaps he feared that his plan was half-cocked but, as he put it to me when I pressed him on why he would want to embark on such a huge task, he said, 'Voltaire's prescription for avoiding suicide was work.' ... On days when his hands were swollen from arthritis and he could barely grip the shears to cut through the thick fabric, he slowed down. He took a day off. Or two. Sometimes three. But he never despaired."
To the delight (and surprise) of everyone, Edward perfectly finished the job he had set out to do. This is the ideal book for anyone who ever feels as if life is too challenging. In the nicest possible way, Edward shows us that age is just a number.
Marilyn Murray Willison has had a varied career as a six-time nonfiction author, columnist, motivational speaker and journalist in both the U.K. and the U.S. She is the author of The Self-Empowered Woman blog and the award-winning memoir "One Woman, Four Decades, Eight Wishes." She can be reached at www.marilynwillison.com. To find out more about Marilyn and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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