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Lucky Girl

December 1, 2012

Last night, in an attempt to meet a deadline, I crawled into bed at the sunset hour of 5 o’clock.  With my long hair tied back, my eyeglasses slipping down the bridge of my nose, and my long flannel nightgown on, I eagerly opened the book and turned to where the bookmark had been wedged in the night before. I had just another 100 pages to read and knew that I could finish that in no time, especially because it was such a good book.

Michael J. Fox (Lucky Man)I mentioned last weekend that I was making my way through a memoir by Michael J. Fox called, “Lucky Man”. Now let me tell you, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good read, let alone a good read about an actual person’s life!

What makes it even more interesting is that I know Michael J. Fox.

Okay, you’ve caught me; I don’t actually know Michael J. Fox, I’ve just watched him pretend to be someone else on the tele… just like the millions of you out there.

In my post, “Good things come in threes”, I mentioned that “Doc Hollywood” was my favourite movie when I was eleven. I also said that it was probably part of the reason why I wanted to be a doctor for all of those years. Anyway, I remember that movie oh-so-clearly. I was in my parents’ room (on account of not having a tele in my room), flipping through the channels when I noticed something interesting on channel 51.

Back then, all of the good movies I had ever known were shown on the family channel (a Canadian version of the Disney Channel). Now I’m not talking about the prime-time family channel that shows Lizzie McGuire specials; I’m talking about the family channel that shows good, wholesome “grown-up” movies (not the rated X kind!) on Friday and Saturday nights at 10:30pm. I am sure I must have watched Doc Hollywood on the family channel. Or actually, maybe I watched it on PeachTreeTV. Whatever, this doesn’t matter. The point is, I remember how great Fox was in that movie. I still vividly remember two scenes from that movie: the scene where he delivers a baby in the car and the scene where he is slow dancing with his love in the town “hospital”.

Doc Hollywood (1991)I hope I’m remembering actual scenes from this movie; it would be rather embarrassing if I’ve been “misremembering” all of these years… like I often do. (Edit: I did not misremember! Click here for the delivery scene and click here for the dancing scene. But the video of the dancing scene wasn’t the scene I had remembered. I will rewatch the movie tonight and will update at a later time as to whether there really is a dancing scene in a “town hospital”. Let’s see how I feel about the movie 9 years later!)

“Lucky Man” was the first book of three that Fox would end up writing. Of course, I plan to read the other two. It’s weird, but after finishing the book, I feel this longing that is hard to shake. It’s the kind of longing that you get when you’re talking on the phone with your best friend, hanging on her every word, only to have the line get cut off. What happens next?! This might sound sort of strange (but surely not to you fellow avid readers out there), but when I was reading the book, I felt as though he was right there telling me the whole story, and I was listening intently, nodding along at all of the appropriate moments. It’s sort of like when I receive letters from friends. I can’t remember whether the things they told me were in person or through writing. I always mistake things that were told to me in writing for things that were told to me in person. That is why every morning, I wake up with the feeling that I had had a great phone conversation with Mr. Fox the night before.

Anyway, for obvious reasons, I don’t want to go into too much detail about the book. But I do have a couple of things that I want to say.

First, you have to read this book. I know I say that about practically every book I read (that’s because I only read good books), but I’m serious – read it! I mean, if I’m taking the time to write about the book, then you know it has to be a good read. Now you might be skeptical, given that this is a celebrity’s memoir. After all, a good actor like Michael J. Fox knows how to easily trick others into believing what he wants them to believe. But trust me when I say that this book is made up of honest words. What I love most about this book is Fox’s willingness to be vulnerable.

Let’s face it: we all know how hard it is to lay it all out on the table. Now imagine putting it all out on the table for billions of people to see. Uh, how scary is that?

That’s a rhetorical question by the way.

The book bounces from the present to the past frequently, but don’t worry, it is not confusing at all. I felt so incredibly connected to him as I was reading about his humble beginnings in British Columbia, about his “struggling artist” life at the beginning of his career, about his alcohol abuse, and finally, about his struggles with Parkinson’s Disease. This book is not only good because of the wonderful childhood stories he tells, but it’s also great in the way that it has opened my eyes to Parkinson’s Disease. I was simply floored when I found out that in the mid 1990s, “the National Institutes of Health were spending an estimated $2, 400 per victim each year on HIV/AIDS research, $200 on breast cancer, $100 on prostate cancer, $78 on Alzheimer’s disease, $34 on Parkinson’s, and only $20 each on diabetes and coronary heart disease” (232). With Fox’s help, the Michael J. Fox Foundation has been set up and now, researchers can get their hands on grants in as little as three months (as compared to the usual one-year wait).

Additionally, some of the things he wrote, I felt, were so incredibly true and relatable. One part of my life that had been plaguing me for a while suddenly made sense when I read this following passage:

“In searching through my own and my family’s memories, hoping to understand who I am, I tend to view myself through the lens of who I have become. Those events and personal qualities that support the current version get singled out unconsciously, distorting memories in order to illuminate my path more brightly” (43).

How can I put this more persuasively? If you like biographies, then read the damn book.

I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Let’s just say that I feel like a Lucky Girl – a lucky girl to have found this book on Amazon.ca in 2010, a lucky girl to have rediscovered it on her bookshelf two years later, and a lucky girl to “know” a great Canadian like Michael J. Fox.

And the best part of it all is how well he writes. I love it when people can actually write; it makes it so much easier to read.

Anyway, this week’s book is “Eating Animals”, by Jonathan Safran Foer. Trust me, I’ll have a lot to say once I finish reading this book! I’m only 50 pages in and I already have a lot to say!

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