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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My take on "Wait, What?"

This is not an actual review of James E. Ryan's book Wait, What?: And Life's Other Essential Questions. You can read 70 or so of those on Amazon. It's just some of my impressions, the kind of things that my husband would likely dismiss as nitpicks.  He's the one who told me to read the book after he finished himself today. I agree it is a good read, though I wouldn't consider it really life-changing.

Here's my most nitpicky nitpick: it's about a question marks. The book is set out as an exploration of 5 essential questions, and most are set as such like the question in the title. Among them is a paired set: "I wonder if .../ I wonder why..." He believes those are essential to remaining curious and engaged in life, and I do agree with the thought. I just don't agree with the punctuation that he opted for. He placed question marks after each of them, and I would punctuate them as statements because they are not really formulated as questions but as assertions about what one is thinking about.

There is a way to set the equivalent as a question, and that would be, "What would happen if ....?" or "Why does ...?"  Those are expressions of curiosity that are about the things happening rather than how one feels about them -- wondering.

He brings up that kind of curiosity as resulting in positive benefits in recounting the story of finding his birth mother. It's a nice story, though I didn't really find it as surprising as he made it out to be. What actually did surprise me is that he could claim credit for his pursuing this out of curiosity when he admitted to being perfectly content not to find out until he was 47.  I would think a really curious adopted child would have thought about finding his mother at a much younger age.

And now my final nitpick, which is not really a nitcpick but an understanding of reality that eludes the author. One of the key questions is "Could we just...?" He presents that as how his wife gradually won him over to considering having a fourth child. Now here's the thing: generally if a woman is the one who really wants the child-- barring fertility issues -- it will happen. The odds of his thwarting her ambitions in that area were slim to none. In that area the mother's wishes carry a lot more weight than the father's, so it was not really a question of if but merely of when he would agree with her.  In retrospect his agreement extends to her observation that until then the family did  not seem complete. But in reality, parents (who are not averse to being parents)  would feel that way about any child, whether it was the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or even twelfth, as the case may be.

In terms of really useful advice, I'd say the sections on asking people how they want to be helped and the insight he gained from being shown what to do by a girl named  Cindy are worth noting.

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