Source: From the author and his publicist at the Book Blogger Convention Reception, Thursday, May 26, 2011
Summary: Jim Higley had a fast-paced job with long hours and three beautiful kids he sometimes managed to have half-heard conversations with, bobbing his head in response to their stories. Like the bobblehead baseball players he collected as a boy, he nodded and smiled but didn’t take time to connect with the experiences or the people in his life until the summer he was 44 and took the summer off.
How does a middle-aged guy manage to land an entire summer off? Well, I had cancer. It’s something my parents and siblings encounter with regularity. Some families have red hair. Or they spawn a lot of tall people. Mine produces very ordinary people who have a propensity for cancer.
Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew reads like a series of essays, but there are several connecting threads to draw the reader through them: the story of that summer of recovery, the search for deeper meaning in that experience, and the redeveloping relationships with family. Most of the essays also tie in events in the past and all of them end with a life lesson that Jim discovered from this reflection, inviting readers to discover their own lessons.
Thoughts: I met Jim at the Book Blogger Convention Reception after his publicist brought us together when I expressed an interest in nonfiction books. We immediately connected over our shared experiences as cancer survivors. As I mentioned in my First BAND post: Favorite Nonfiction, I love to compare my life with the authors of memoirs and look for the connections. I found many connections in Jim’s book, including too many family cancer experiences along with my own, being roughly the same age and growing up in small midwestern towns, and having dads who worked at a place called “the plant” at jobs we didn’t fully understand.
I was diagnosed with cancer the year I turned 23 and so the lessons drawn for me were those that benefited someone at the beginning of adulthood, different than those for Jim in the middle of adulthood.
Toward the beginning of his journey, Jim had a conversation with a friend of a friend, Karen, who was a breast cancer survivor. She shared this bit of wisdom that set Jim on his journey to find deeper meaning in his cancer experience:
You may not even realize it at the time…but if your mind and heart are open, I promise you will come out of this with a gift that will change your life.
Your gift will be yours and yours alone. And you will never be the same. Regardless of what happens with your cancer.
For me, that was the big lesson of my cancer. Learning at age 23 that there is a gift at the center of unwelcome life developments is very powerful. I expressed it in an essay once as my definition of the grace of God — the kernel of opportunity for growth in the center of every bad thing that happens in life. Looking for the grace of God through illness, divorce, job worries, and the death of loved ones both deepens those experiences and allows me to move through them more gracefully and, I believe, more quickly. That’s the experience that Jim had and shares with us in Bobblehead Dad using wit, wisdom, and enthusiasm for getting the most of life.
Appeal: This would have been a great Fathers Day gift idea if I’d reviewed it earlier in the summer! Still, it’s terrific for dad’s birthdays and, hey, those December holidays aren’t that far away. It’s not at all a male-only book, though; women will enjoy it, too.
This is also my new favorite book to hand to newly-minted cancer survivors (you’re a survivor, I figure, the moment you’ve survived hearing the diagnosis).
There’s a Bobblehead Dad website where I just spent way too much time learning about the annual Spam cook-off in Fremont, Nebraska. Fun!
Have you read this book? What did you think?