Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Review: The Noticer by Andy Andrews


Title: The Noticer
Author: Andy Andrews
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, hardcover, 176 pages
ISBN-10: 0785229213
ISBN-13: 978-0785229216


“I had been crying, and he heard me, I guess. My cries were not the muffled sobs of loneliness or the whimpering of discomfort – though certainly I was lonely and uncomfortable – but the anguished wail that a guy will let loose only when he is sure there is no one around to hear him. And I was sure. Wrong, obviously, but sure. At least as sure as one spending another night under a pier can be ….

Honestly I didn’t think anyone knew I slept there – which is why I was so surprised when I looked up and saw Jones.

“Come here, son,” he said, with his hand outstretched. “Move into the light” (p. 2-3).


Jones (or Garcia or Chen, depending on your nationality) is an ageless old man who shows up for 23-year-old Andy under the pier. But instead of allowing Andy to grovel in the self-pity his situation warrants, Jones challenges him to “get started…start noticing a few things. We need to check your heart. We need to gather a little perspective” (p. 5). Then he gives Andy a few biographies to read and leaves but keeps reappearing until Andy is on his feet.

This first incident in The Noticer by Andy Andrews is typical of what happens in this parable-type story of meaningful encounters that Jones engineers with people who are at crisis crossroads. To each, from the man intent on committing suicide to the unscrupulous land developer, Jones appears at just the right moment and with the right combination of honesty, wisdom and hope to change the course of a life.

Jones’ main message to each desperate soul is to seek perspective:
“In desperate times, much more than anything else, folks need perspective. For perspective brings calm, calm leads to clear thinking. Clear thinking yields new ideas. And ideas produce the bloom…of an answer” (p. 154).


The book is a quick and easy read, peopled as it is with troubled characters mired in relatable situations. Jones-to-the-rescue conversations are full of proverbial wisdom dispensed in pithy aphorisms. I was glad it wasn’t a library copy but my own I was reading as I found myself reaching for my pen again and again to highlight Jonesisms like:

“…life is like a game of Monopoly. You may own hotels on Boardwalk, or you may be renting on Baltic Avenue. But in the end, it all goes back in the box” (p. 102).


and

“I believe you should ask yourself every day, ‘What is it about me that other people would change if they could?’” (p. 135).


The Jones character is interesting to contemplate. At times he seemed like one of the humanoid angels in Touched by an Angel. At others, I wondered if he wasn’t meant to symbolize Jesus himself.

I have two small quibbles with the book. The first is with its shifting point of view. The story began with Andy telling the story in first person. Thus I thought the story would be about Jones as seen through Andy’s eyes. But in the next section Andrews shifted to third person point of view with Andy completely out of the picture. After that he went back and forth with Andy telling some parts and not others. I found it a little disorienting.

(As a side note, it’s interesting that Andrews uses his own name, “Andy,” in the first-person sections. It left me with the question – did this or some facsimile of it really happen? Or did he use his name as a literary device to make the story feel believable?)

The second quibble is with the book’s message. Though it’s excellent and provides lots of food for thought and discussion, I felt it left out one of the main aspects of perspective. There is little mention of the possibility of a relationship with God and how that impacts one’s perspective. Perhaps the omission was intentional in hopes that a book which didn’t take a theological position would appeal to a wider range of readers. However, that oversight made the book seem incomplete to me.

The sturdy hardcover edition comes complete with a Reader’s Guide at the back, making The Noticer an excellent book club choice.

All in all, this little volume packs a big punch. Its wisdom-filled pages will ensure that you’ll not only read it but find yourself referring to and quoting it from it later. Hopefully it will make a permanent impact on your perspective – as I believe it has mine.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blue Moon Readings

I'm reading in the Blue Moon Readings in Abbotsford tomorrow. It's even in the Abbotsford News: