Lucky Man – A Memoir – by Michael J Fox reviewed by Celine
Publisher: Bantam Books
Date of publication: 2002
Genres: Non-fiction, autobiography
This is a small sized book of 317 pages including photos, and is a wonderful and enjoyable memoir of Michael Fox’s life up to 2001, when Michael turned 40 (born on 9 June 1961). The “lucky man” reference is explained within the first 7 pages. In November 1990 when he was only 29 Michael first noticed the twitching that was diagnosed as Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease a year later. For 7 years he kept this secret from the public, before disclosure in 1998.
The book pays close attention to detail. I love the telling of Michael Fox’s child-hood which immediately paints a picture of a curious, optimistic and courageous person, and rolls into the story of his struggling early years as an actor, his drinking bouts back in the 80s and his touching relationship with his Nana.
This autobiography definitely has a spiritual element to it, for those who would see it, from showing the facts that his wife Tracy supported him so irrevocably, and his Nana fore-told that he would do well and would “make it in Life”. It also does this from its beautiful organic or flowing narrative, encapsulating Michael’s years of denial of his disease and the other 4 stages of dealing with a shock (anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) to his realisation and indeed a natural act of grace when he finally chooses to give up drinking and starts to embark upon a journey, rather than continuing to adopt a “siege mentality.”
Emma Brockes from “The Guardian” interviews Michael J Fox and suggests that his approach may be evangelism or the over promoting of the positive impact of Parkinson’s Disease or of any other illness – as a gift in terms of choosing as positive an approach toward it as you can, but I disagree that Fox’s memoir is glossing over the seriousness of Parkinson’s Disease or saying that difficult things have to happen in order to know what you have got. Rather he is exposing his true experiences.
I confess that I have been meaning to read this book for ages, but put it off because I wrongly thought that it would mainly be about the awfulness of a crippling illness, Parkinson’s Disease, and my head wasn’t in the “right space” to deal with what I assumed it would cover.
But having finally read the whole book and being very impressed with it, I view Michael as simply sharing his own holistic experience of it, including the fact that the exact causes of Parkinson’s Disease are not known, and describing the medications for it, and how he continued with his acting career, hiding his disorder, until 1998.
Some members of the public may say or think that Michael J Fox had the money to spend on treatment so in that way he was lucky.
The point is that Michael Fox always felt lucky in terms of feeling fortunate or blessed and despite his movie fame and his fascinating foray into what he calls “magical thinking” (what celebrities and those who shore up celebrities expect) he has always been a humble person.
Part of Michael’s reconciling with the “gift that keeps taking” is to set up a Foundation to try to find the causes of Parkinson’s Disease and to research treatments. Michael never wanted it to be called the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research but acquiesced in order to make use of the magical thinking he so well describes (a phenomenon where people zero in on desirable aspects of things, and may fall into the pit-falls, i.e. become un-realistic or over-attached) BUT also to show his humanness to the world.
It is not the fragility of Fox’s experiences that made “Lucky Man” memorable for me, but his honest detailing and the sharing of a young person’s choices or responses to a degenerative illness, which embraced a realisation and practice that an illness shows a complementary facet of Life – what is “right” with your Life and to focus on one’s aspects of health that are not disordered – are what reached and enriched me.
Michael is keenly aware of the inequity and problems faced by other sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease. He teamed up with other young sufferers to embark upon investigating possibilities for a cure, a precursor to the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease, and has since “Lucky Man” produced other books.
“Lucky Man” ends with his telling of a 1995 re-visit in memory to Michael’s child-hood, where he connects, through a dream, to an indelible event that happened when he was 10 years old, in 1971, and in 1995 at age 34 his sub-conscious reaches out to his 10 year old experience where he accidentally grew a baby walnut tree, and reminds him that growth and learning and toughness are firmly on his path-way.
Magical. Thank you Michael Fox for sharing your journey.
OTHER BOOKS BY MICHAEL J FOX
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