I don’t typically read (or listen to) non-fiction. It’s just not my thing. And I’m inclined to avoid anything that may have political overtones, because honestly politics confuse and depress me and I prefer for my book time to be spent with things that make me feel good. That said, I have been drawn to The Time of Our Lives since it hit the shelves last year. I brought home the book, but returned it unread because others seemed more interesting at the time. And then, as packing was wrapping up at work there was the audio edition – lonely and forlorn having somehow been overlooked in the frenzy. It must have been divine intervention and seeing how Tom Brokaw was doing his own reading I brought it home to give a listen.
In The Time of Our Lives Mr. Brokaw explores the challenges that we face today in America and asks, “What can we do to restore our country to greatness?” Through stories about his working class family and their experiences as well as those of several interesting and inspirational Americans he paints a vivid picture of the country that was, and the American dream that meant so much to so many. But what has become of that dream? What do we hope to achieve in our lives and what do we want for our children? In the past century we have gone from the great depression to decades of great excess and now into the great recession. How do we find our way back to the top? Can we find our way? Mr. Brokaw doesn’t profess to have all the answers, but he offers insight into what restored us following WWII and how it might help us now.
Like I said, non-fiction isn’t my thing, but I’m really glad that I brought this one home. First, I love his voice – he could be reading the dictionary and I would listen. The main reason though is it gave me so much to think about. It also led to several stimulating conversations with my husband, John. What is our American dream? Things that were once so important, like owning a home, have a completely different meaning to us now. And how about retiring and living a life of leisure? I’m pretty sure that won’t be happening any time soon! It isn’t all about the big stuff. He reminded me that my son won’t ever have a collection of 45 rpm records, and that the salesman won’t be coming to the door with this month’s encyclopedia! There are other things too, like how much our life expectancy has increased, and the amazing advances that we’ve made in medicine. I’m pushing the envelope on 50, but hopefully I’m only half way done!
The book moves along at a good pace. Even the parts that touched on politics and world events were presented in a way that held my interest. I like Tom and his family (by the end, I felt like we were friends so it’s okay to use his first name!) There’s a bit where someone asked what his wife thought of being married to a “news celebrity”, and he replied, “I’m surprised when she even remembers what I do at the end of the day!” Family and community are important and he reminds us with touching stories of everyday heros and regular people displaying extraordinary strength and compassion. I’ll even admit that listening to a story at the end of the book about a herd of cattle in the Montana wilderness was so moving that I found myself tearing up! The moral of the story - when we’re faced with a difficult situation it’s always easier to go through it together. You’re right Tom. And I promise to do my best!