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Napkin Notes: Make Lunch Meaningful, Life Will Follow by Garth Callaghan

Napkin Notes by Garth Callaghan is a book that my grandmother ran across in one of her magazines back in December.  But before she could give me the title, she lost the list.  Then she found it again sometime in January.  So the library got a copy, and I passed it along to my grandmother so she could read it, and then she returned it to me, and I ended up reading it before I returned it to the library.  My grandmother and I both had the same reaction to the book, which I will share later in the review.

When his daughter was young, Garth Callaghan began including napkin notes in the school lunches he packed for her every day.  At first the notes were thrown in sporadically, but when he realized how much his daughter looked forward to them, the notes became a constant and essential component of her lunches.  The notes were a means for father to connect with daughter in the midst of the school day during the school year when his time with her was limited due to school and work commitments.

When Callaghan is diagnosed with cancer, the notes take on a whole new meaning, and he makes a commitment to make sure there will be a napkin note for his daughter's lunch every day from now until graduation day.  Even if he isn't here to put it in the lunches.  As a result he writes over 800 notes.

Throughout the book Callaghan shares his cancer journey from initial diagnosis through his treatments to remission to subsequent cancer diagnoses (yes, plural) to finally a terminal prognosis.  He shares the financial and spiritual struggles he and his family endured with the onset of his cancer as well as the growing response to his story about the napkin notes as it snowballs into national coverage in mainstream news outlets, viral online viewings, and multiple interviews (none of which I was aware until my grandmother told me about the book, so I don't know where I was when all this was going on).  Interspersed throughout are the selected napkin notes that have appeared in his daughter's past school lunches and the life lessons he wishes to teach her.

This is a small book.  It's easy to read, and it goes pretty fast.  You can easily knock it out in a day (I did).  There are some heart-wrenching passages to read, so you may want to keep some tissues handy.  That being said both my grandmother and I had the same reaction to the book: "meh. it was okay."  It was neither the best nor the *worst book I've ever read.

I'm not a big fan of anecdote type books in which inspirational quotes or life lessons are imparted through anecdotes about life experiences.  After a while that part got repetitive, and I found I often skipped over the napkin note quotes and stuck mostly to the prose chapters of the book.  Something else that I didn't get was the constant job hopping/job hunting that Callaghan did.  Unless it wasn't as constant in reality as it appeared in the book--which was something that I found confusing also: the timeline and time context of the events as they occurred.  Then I got to the epilogue, and my reaction: what. the. hell.  I don't get it.  I still don't get it and it's completely jarring and doesn't gel with the rest of the book.  What is the point?  The epilogue almost ruins the entire book.  And I still don't get it.  If anybody has read this book, and gets the epilogue, maybe they can explain it in the comments (or if they had a different opinion about the epilogue, please share that too because it bothers me and did I mention that I still don't get it?).

*hello, Into The Heart Of Darkness; I am still bitter about the two required readings I had to do of that book because I had to write two papers on it.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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