For One More Day Summary

Mitch Albom

For One More Day

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For One More Day Summary

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Like many of his other works, For One More Day, by Mitch Albom, is concerned with issues of mortality, forgiveness and regret. The novel’s protagonist is Charley “Chick” Benetto, a former professional baseball player whose career ended prematurely as a result of injury. Since then, Charley’s life has spiraled out of control: unable to hold down a job and in serious financial trouble, he starts drinking heavily, which leads to the breakdown of both his marriage and his relationship with his daughter, Maria. In fact, Charley’s relationship with his daughter is so strained that he is not invited to her wedding. He finds receiving a copy of Maria’s wedding photo in the mail too much for him to bear and decides to commit suicide.

An extremely intoxicated Charley decides that he should kill himself in his old home town but, on his way there, he misses the exit. He swings around dangerously to drive down the wrong side of the road, overturning his car in the process. He emerges unscathed, however, and proceeds to walk to town, climb to the top of the water tower, and jump off. When he wakes at the foot of the tower, his mother, who has been dead for eight years, is standing over him.

This unlikely turn of events is the crux of the novel; it offers Charley a second chance to spend time with his mother, to learn more about—and from—her than he did when she was alive. Charley and his mother, Posey, spend the day together visiting a series of unlikely people, characters who reveal something about Posey that Charley didn’t know. Along the way we get an insight into Charley’s childhood and how his character was formed.

We learn that from a young age, Charley’s father, Lenny, forced him to choose between his mother and his father. Charley decides to be a “daddy’s boy” and spends much of his early life trying to please an angry and difficult man, to the detriment of his relationship with his mother. Baseball becomes the means through which the two of them bond and Charley pursues a professional career in the sport primarily to please his father. When his parents’ marriage fails, Charley sees less and less of his father, and it is only when he gains a reputation as an athlete, earning a baseball scholarship and the chance to join a local team, that his father takes an interest in his life. In fact Lenny encourages Charley to drop out of college to pursue baseball full-time, a decision that will have negative consequences when Charley’s professional career comes to an end. Given that Posey has always supported and encouraged Charley in his education, this is another instance in which his mother and father are opposed in the novel.

As Charley spends more time with his mother, he recalls how difficult it was to be the child of divorced parents in America in the 1950s. He and his sister were teased mercilessly, but their experiences paled in comparison to his mother’s. Posey was a qualified nurse but she gave up the profession after her divorce because, in the eyes of the men she worked with, she was “fair game,” and she couldn’t bear the harassment. What Charley didn’t know is that his mother subsequently established a cleaning business and worked as a maid to support her family. This new discovery compounds his guilt and his sense that he had neglected his mother—the one person who was always there for him—when she was alive. Charley’s guilt takes the form of two lists that are referred to periodically throughout the text: “Times My Mother Stood Up For Me” and “Times I Did Not Stand Up For My Mother”.

During the day Charley spends with his mother, he hears a male voice calling his name. The urgency of this voice increases as time passes and it is eventually what draws him back to consciousness, where he finds himself lying in a paramedic’s arms. Just before he leaves his mother, however, she takes him to visit his father’s second wife, the reason for the breakdown of his parents’ marriage. This sequence is really about forgiveness and reconciliation, something which Posey has encouraged Charley in throughout their time together. In a short epilogue, narrated by Charley’s daughter Maria, we learn that after his near-death experience, Charley sobered up and reconciled with his family. He died five years later.

For One More Day explores the possibility of spending time with someone we have lost. It suggests the importance of appreciating the people we love now, so that we do not regret our missed opportunities when they are gone. While themes of regret, mortality, forgiveness and family are prominent in the novel, Charley’s relationship with his father also raises interesting questions about gender identity. Charley’s father fought in Italy in World War II and is a typical man’s man. He doesn’t want his son to be a “mama’s boy” and he can only bond with his son through sport, particularly baseball. Not only does this severely limit his own relationship with his son, it also affects Charley’s relationship with his mother. In his desire to please his father he turns away from a source of love and support that might have helped him through the difficult times he faced. In this way, Albom’s novel suggests that gender stereotypes can have a limiting and damaging effect on people’s identity and their relationships with others, something they might later regret.