Not knowing what to expect when I first received a copy of The Parallax, I was excited to give this novel a try. The back cover of the novel states that it’s author, Dr. Rickert, is a professor whose “teaching and research focuses on managing change and improving personal effectiveness.” I’ll admit, I am a skeptic when it comes to those who preach the power of personal change and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that people who help others come to realizations about who they are serve an important place in our society, I just think that this can easily become a way to ensnare folks into thinking and acting in ways that they shouldn’t if done incorrectly. Nevertheless, I opened the book and began reading. And boy was I wrong in my assumption.
The first portion of The Parallax tells the story of Francis and Sarah on their 25th wedding anniversary. They have taken a trip to Colorado to revisit memories of the earlier days of their marriage, in which they often hiked around the area. Unfortunately, this particular day also happens to be September 11th, 2001, and their day consists of a mixture of worriment at the events that are unfolding around the nation and trying to work on old issues that have come between them in their marriage. In short, Frank begins to realize the effect that his actions over the course of their marriage have been having on Sarah, which have been compounded by her diagnosis of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). The second half of the book focuses on a seminar type discussion in which the perspective changes from the first person (Frank) to the third person, observing the seminar. In it, Frank’s tale, which we have just read ourselves, is discussed and its effect on the lives of those around the room is debated. In closing, a few other surprises are in store, but I won’t reveal them here.
As I stated before, I’m quite skeptical when it comes to discussion and workshops that attempt to make one rethink one’s whole existence or point of view. I am typically of the mindset that no amount of lecturing or inspirational videos, talks, or small group discussions have the power to really change most anyone. However, after reading this work I do believe that it is possible to start such a change, if only to plant a seed that later grows into a new understanding of one’s self. It all has to do with perspective. “Parallax” means an apparent change in perspective due to a change in position in view of an object. It could be literally interpreted as seeing a new side of a sculpture because you walked around it to see the portion you could not see before. However, when taken metaphorically, as this book attempts to do, giving your life a new perspective can often create new ideas and a new outlook on your life when you metaphorically change the way you look at yourself. The way this is done in the book is in forcing everyone at the seminar to connect to Frank’s story, no matter how obscure or strange the connection, even if part of your own connection is fictitious. For example, some of the members of the seminar wrote about portions of their own life that Frank’s story sparked in them, but from different points of view (i.e. a woman wrote of her dying grandfather’s final days from his point of view instead of her own). This forced the participants to change how they looked at themselves, even if it seemed odd or inconsequential. I believe that this is the key: the process of listening to someone’s story can affect you just as much as it affected the person who wrote it. The interconnection is important in showing that we’re all here for a finite time, and we should be the best people we can while we have the opportunity. So, in a sense, this book worked for me as well, as it made me rethink how others see me. Will it work for you?
4 out of 5 stars
The Parallax by Donald R. Rickert, Ph.D.
Abbott Press (2011)
Paperback: 116 pages
Special thanks to Jesse at Author Solutions for sending me my review copy!
One lucky person will have the opportunity to win their own copy of The Parallax by Donald Rickert. Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Friday, April 13, 2012. Winner will be picked at random and announced on Saturday, April 14, 2012. Giveaway open to residents of US and Canada only. Good luck!