Friday, October 12, 2007

How Starbucks Saved My Life

You’re probably wondering how I came to read this book; then again you’re probably not, but I want you to know anyway! It was on the new releases shelf, that’s how! And it cost me all of a hundred and ninety five bucks (excluding 10% discount).

So back to the point… What this story is about is most obvious. But what is not is the fact that it’s a really simple story. No major management sermons, no major sob story. Nothing much really. Except that here’s an endearing geriatric (yes, it’s called the arrogance of youth!) who writes this book with humor and lots of honesty.

At the risk of repeating what’s on the blurb, here is the context. Michael Gates Gill is a really successful creative director at JWT. One fine day he gets fired by a woman less than half his age, and one he mentored. The reason? He was too old and therefore dispensable. Michael then starts his own firm which is anything but a success. On the personal front, Michael fathers a son in an extra-marital affair, and his wife files for divorce, his children no longer want to see him. His affair does not last long. So he is verging on broke, has no fancy home and as an icing on the top, he has just been diagnosed with a non-terminal brain tumor that is causing him to lose his hearing in one ear. Michael meets Crystal in a Starbucks and she offers him a job as a barista. Michael becomes Mike and the rest is what this book is about.

The nicest thing about this book was that there was never any self pity. Mike does cry, more than once, but it is never out pity for his life. There are bits where he rambles on about his father and his father’s father and all the luxury that he was brought up in. He never mentions it explicitly, but I also suspect he was quite dyslexic. So at the ripe old age of 60 and wearing his expensive loafers, he commutes an hour and half to his Starbucks store everyday to be a barista. If I say more then I’ll really give away the story – at 260 pages in large typeface, this isn’t much of a novel.

Mike and his style of narration don’t allow you to take everything too seriously. It could have been a sentimental, sympathy-evoking tale, but it’s not; even in the parts where he is describing his sometimes dysfunctional upbringing, it seems more matter-of-fact than sorry. Mike and his rediscovery of the joys of living and life are more about keeping the faith, and learning to make use of whatever opportunity that comes your way. Mike learns at the end of it all that in all his years at JWT he was never as happy nor as respected as he is at Starbucks. This is more of a feel-good story. I read recently, that these days it’s very rare to find books that you can read on an overnight journey. Well, you need not look further!

Title: How Starbucks Saved My Life
Author: Michael Gill
Published by: HarperCollins