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Book Review - Anna Cooke

THE BRAIN IS A PHYSICAL OBJECT that can be seen with the eyes, photographed or operated on in surgery. The mind, on the other hand, is not a physical object at all. In Buddhist scriptures, the body is compared to a guest house and the mind is com- pared to a guest dwelling with- in. The mind and body are different entities. Sometimes when the body is relaxed and immobile, the mind can be very busy, darting from one subject to another. It is very important to

be able to distinguish dis- turbed states of mind from peaceful ones. States of mind that dis- turb our inner peace include anger and jealousy, the principal causes of all our suf- fering. We may think that our suffer-

ing is caused by other people, but in reality it all comes from our own states of mind.

“Cary used to say that dogs were made by God so God could slow down and smell the grass. Ralph reminds me time and again that life can be just this – a blade of

grass. Then this – a single footprint drying in the mud beside a gravestone. But the human asks questions: Whose footprint, why barefoot, why only one?

Better to be a dog: the entire universe is one flower, the entire universe is the next flower – the ever-present, nothing more.” From The Book of Why

by Nicholas Montemarano - Little, Brown - 2013 The Book of Why, a novel by Nicholas Montemarano, is a

profound read. It was better than any self-help book I’ve read. In fact, Nicholas said writers such as Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer helped raise some important questions for him while writing this novel. He credits one of his favorite poems, The Story We Know, by Martha Collins, as an important trigger for The Book of Why. The story is written in first person, as told by the main

character, Eric Newborn. He is a self-help author, actually, whose books have spawned legions of fans who swear that his ideas have changed their lives. The first line in this novel —


Eric’s story — is, of course from Eric himself. “This is a self-help book. Didn’t think it was, but it is. It’s also a revision, a question, a confession, an apology, a love letter. How powerful is the mind? Eric tells a group gathered at a

Wellness Festival, “You need to live as if. As if you already have everything you want. As if the universe is listening. Anticipate what’s coming. Live in a perpetual state of expectation. If you want love, expect love. If you want health, anticipate health. Celebrate whatever you want as if it’s already arrived.” He looks out at his audience and adds, “When you expect

something, it’s on its way. When you fear something, it’s on its way.” There are no accidents. Then, Eric’s wife dies, and suddenly our self-help guru can no longer help himself, much less anyone else. The writing stops. The book tours and seminars stop. He becomes a recluse, living in the home he and Cary shared as a couple on Martha’s Vineyard. Ralph is his 12- year-old female dog. “She used to be hers,

Author Nicholas Montemarano is Associate Professor of English at Franklin & Marshall College in

Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In his acknowl- edgments, Nicholas thanks Nicole Michels, “who waits for me when I fall behind,”

their son Dangiso, “the most joyful human being I’ve ever met.” And his own Ralph, the “best dog in the universe.”

then ours, now mine. But I think of the dog, still, as ours,” Eric tells us. Of course, Eric begins

to question everything now. How, with all of his positive thinking, could he have lost Cary? He willed her to be well again. He willed the can- cer from her body. He

visualized them growing old together. She was a singer, song- writer and performer. He just knew she would write more music, get up on stage again. The power of positive thinking. And yet, the one fundamental question that continues to haunt him throughout the book is why? When someone, presumably coincidentally, comes into

Eric’s life, he is forced out of his comfort zone. He and Ralph go along for the ride and a string of coincidences continue, leading them to meet and re-meet other people. Suddenly, Eric hears a familiar tune that Cary used to sing to him. How could a complete stranger know this song? If someone you love dies, does your love for that person die

too? Some books, Eric tells us, say there’s no good in goodbye. Some books say never say goodbye, better to say see you later, see you soon, see you someday - or until we meet again. U

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