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Book Review: Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist by Michael J. Fox

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Long before I discovered that Michael J. Fox had Parkinson's disease, I had already been an ardent fan and admirer. Growing up watching Family Ties and his movies, I was heavily influenced by his own distinct brand of dry wit and comedy. So when I found his first memoir, the number one bestseller Lucky Man (2003), I devoured the book in one sitting. It was a funny, witty and truly moving book.

His second book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist isn't really a memoir. Although Mr. Fox peppers this book with some very funny anecdotes about his life experiences, it's really more of a collection of personal essays dealing with his views on four themes: work, faith, family and politics. These themes are spread out into four chapters.

Always Looking Up deals more with his battle with Parkinson's, picking up where Lucky Man left behind, but delves into more serious tones as he chronicles his battles with the disease. Luckily, the reader is spared from depressing narratives, and rightfully so, because the title does suggest optimism.

Michael J. Fox is a particularly gifted writer, though, as he states in the book, he has never finished high school or college, and one has to marvel at how articulate he can be.This in itself is testament to the man's unrelenting passion for continuous improvement, particularly so, given the crippling nature of Parkinson's.

The book however, suffers in comparison with Lucky Man. It is just not as memorable, and not as funny as I thought it would be. Particularly uninteresting, albeit brave, is the chapter on politics, where he details his pro-stem cell advocacy and his obvious disdain for Rush Limbaugh. I'd rather that he skipped out on this entire chapter totally, but given the nature of his mission in life, one understands his need to write about it.

However, there are only a handful of really honest celebrity memoirs out there, and Always Looking Up is one of them. Mr. Fox dispenses with any kind of self-promoting hogwash and cuts right to the bone. Don't buy this because you pity Michael J. Fox, as I am pretty sure that he wouldn't want any of that. Buy it because you believe in him and the cause he is fighting for.  You might not end up as an incurable optimist by the end of the book, but you will surely discover nuggets of wisdom that you can carry on with you, and this is the gift of this book.

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About Clarence Yu