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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


***Why Do I Love These People?

Honest and Amazing Stories of Real Families

by Po Bronson

Reviewed March 5, 2006.
Random House, New York, 2005.  381 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (MCN 306.85 BRO).

This book is set up like Po Bronson’s other excellent book, What Should I Do with My Life?  As in that book, he poses several questions and gives a possible answer with a story.  This book didn’t move me quite as much, probably because I personally don’t have as many questions about family as I do about finding one’s calling.

I admit, I liked the stories where couples got through tough times, and stayed together and ended up with a stronger marriage than ever.  Or the couple that got divorced but found forgiveness and remarried each other.  (That’s what I want to hear right now.)  However, there were also stories where people found happiness only after a divorce.  The author doesn’t just look at marriages, but also at relationships with one’s children and parents and siblings. 

All in all, this book gives a picture of families in America today.  They are complicated, spread-out, hard-working.  Po Bronson says, right at the start, “The big conclusion they offered, collectively, was beautifully simple:  that no matter how hard it’s been, we all can create a better family experience.  They made me want to undertake whatever it took to have a better family.”

Some of the insights that came up were profound, like this one:  “Forgiving your enemies is the easy part.  The hard work is in forgiving those you trusted to care for you, those precious few you believed would keep your interests in mind, the one person you thought would never do that to you.  Forgiving those you love is not something you do once, like a ceremony.  It’s required of you, in some form, every single day.”

The author says that working on the book changed him.  “What I hold in my mind’s eye is no longer a naïve myth.  By studying actual families and sorting for the great ones, I’ve discovered they do not resemble the imaginary family that once resided in my mind’s eye.  I’ve learned that painful and troubling things happen, even in great families.  I’ve learned they still get in arguments and they still get their feelings hurt, but over time they overcome most of the challenges in their path.  They may not be tolerant, but they eventually learn tolerance.  They may try to control one another, but they eventually learn not to.”

He concludes, “I hope what these stories demonstrate is love.  Not fakey romantic love, and not love that’s perfect or anything close to idealistic.  Rather, how you get through life with the ones you love.  This might lack the sizzle of a grand theory, but it makes up for it with veracity.  It might lack the comfort of a temporary cure-all, but it makes up for it with integrity.”

Reviews of other books by Po Bronson:
What Should I Do With My Life?
Top Dog

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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