Friday, April 08, 2011

Memoir Review: Always Looking Up

When Michael J. Fox’s voice broadcast out of my iPod saying, “This has been a Hyperion Audio production…,” I called out, “No!  It’s over?”  I loved Michael J. Fox’s second memoir, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, and never wanted it to end.

His first memoir, Lucky Man, detailed his experiences with Parkinson’s disease – his first symptoms, his long period of denial and struggles with alcohol, and his eventual diagnosis and acceptance.  I have a special interest in Fox’s experiences because my mother-in-law recently died of Parkinson’s disease.  She and I both enjoyed and appreciated Lucky Man.  In addition, both of my sons and I are living with a chronic illness, so I feel some connection with Fox’s experiences with denial, diagnosis, treatment, and acceptance.

This book, however, is about so much more than chronic illness.  Certainly, his Parkinson’s is like an extra character in the memoir, always present, but it is by no means the main character.  I was attracted immediately by the title of the book because I would describe myself as an incurable optimist also.  This memoir is a collection of stories from Fox’s life, loosely bound together by his positive life view.

I often found myself either laughing out loud or tearing up as I listened to this audio read by the author (since I listened to much of it while walking around my neighborhood, my neighbors probably think I’m nuts by now).  I wasn’t moved to tears by sad tales of life with chronic illness but by Fox’s ability to find universal truths in his own experiences.  You don’t need to be ill to relate to what he writes about: family, marriage, being a parent, and losing someone you love.

Of course, there are elements of his celebrity – it is, after all, an integral part of his life – that add a fun peek into the lifestyles of the famous: his experiences filming Spin City, rubbing elbows with the rich and powerful, and a hilarious recounting of watching the Tour de France with his friend, Robin Williams. But there is just as much, if not more, time devoted to every day life, describing road trips with his family, the amazing miracle of watching children grow up, and his own search for spirituality.

So much of what Fox said resonated with me.  As much as I enjoyed hearing the book read by the author (he is, after all, an actor, and does a marvelous job), there were many times when I wished I had a hard copy of the book as well so that I could re-read and write down some of his quotes.  In any format, Always Looking Up is an inspiring and uplifting book.

Hyperion Audio

(Michael J. Fox won a well-deserved Grammy award in January 2010 for Always Looking Up.  I didn't realize there was a Grammy category for audio books - will have to pay more attention from now on!)

NOTE: Some of the book is political, as Fox describes his activism over the issue of stem cell research (obviously, he is for it).  If this is something that offends you, consider yourself forewarned.

Check out the audiobook and listen to a sample (read by him) or the print book.


  1. My own vibe told me that this book is such an inspiration not just to some people with chronic illness but also to those who have been into despair and loneliness. Being an optimist, this is a right sphere to choice.

  2. I loved Lucky Man, too and was anxious to hear your thoughts on Fox's newest memoir. Glad to hear you enjoyed it and that you listened to it while walking! Good for you!

  3. Thanks, Pam! You know what a big deal being able to take those walks is for me :)