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Thursday, August 1, 2013

"The Noticer Returns" (Andy Andrews)

TITLE: The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You
AUTHOR: Andy Andrews
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: Thomas-Nelson, 2013, (240 pages).

Jones is back! Not Mr Jones, but just "Jones." This wise and witty man continues with his brand of perceptive observations of life, with his keen ability to notice the profound meaning behind the most mundane of things. Having built quite a sizeable following in the first book, Andy Andrews continues the story of Jones and his daily interactions with people of all walks of life, going through all kinds of ups and downs. More importantly, Jones continue to play the role of the wise man, giving sharp observations of life and at the same time whetting the spiritual appetite of people he comes in touch with. Writing as a first person observation, Andrews includes his wife using their real names in the book.  In this book, he continues his series of books that contains a bit of literature, a little of inspiration and spirituality, as well as historical fiction, giving bookstores quite a challenge in trying to categorize his books.

Who exactly is the Noticer?  It is the name given to one who is highly observant of life and ordinary people just trying to make ends meet. Like the popular TV series, the Mentalist, Jones plays the role of the highly perceptive investigator Patrick Jane, who has a knack to see what most people do not see, to remember what most do not remember, and to make conclusions that are way beyond the wildest imaginations of most people. Jones is that special person in this book, noticing people and principles, life and lifestyles, giving an extraordinary perspective to ordinary circumstances. There is Baker and Sealy, a farming couple struggling with financial problems as their farms are not helping them turn around their investment. At the time that Jones appeared, Baker's crops are having a disaster of "biblical proportions." So upset is Baker that he nearly shoots Jones. Then there is Kelli and Bart attending a parenting seminar of 5 people, including the author and his wife. They learn about the importance of having a "standard" in bringing up children. More importantly, they learn that "how" a person thinks is more important than "what" a person can think out. In other words, when the thinking process is clear and the perspective is wisely thought out first, the rest, whether ideas, thoughts, or words will flow copiously.

There is also the intriguing personal struggle of the inner life of a writer, the author himself. It is also one of the most interesting parts of the book, on how a writer struggling with the writer's block, is seeking an answer from Jones, through a book that the writer is actually creating! A key lesson learned is that the writer's calling  is not about "entertaining" people but to change lives. This can be easily applied to any writer who wants their writings to make an impact. More over, we can help strengthen the perspective that real life itself is already very entertaining too. It is the perspective that makes the difference. Being stuck makes one more aware of the surroundings, and at some point, the perspective will mysteriously find us! For instance, the meaning of value is often equated to money and financial measurements. What if value is something that is meaningful to life? What if value is measured in terms of good works that other people can benefit from? Below are some of my favourite quotes from the book.

  • On Education: "As important as a great education may be, that is not an end result. We all know highly educated people who are deep in debt or even unemployed. So while an education might lead to a result for your child, it is not the result itself."
  • Making a Difference: "simply, “Everybody wants to make a difference, but nobody wants to be different. And you simply cannot have one without the other.”
  • Character: "“You see, my friends, true character is that rare quality able to raise mere, mortal man from ordinary circumstance to greatness. A person of integrity, trustworthy and reliable, is prepared
    and capable of performing the task for which he was created, but it takes character to speak up, step out, and perform that task."
  • Maturity: "The mature person—the high achiever—will understand that life’s grand prizes are guarded by confusion. The mature person senses the victory that exists beyond confusion and says, ‘I cannot do this . . . yet. I am not good at this yet, but I will work and learn and become better until I am competent, then excellent, then great! I will struggle and persist through confusion until I break through to the understanding or greater skill required for victory.’"
  • On Pessimism of Darkness: "If darkness is winning the battles, my friend, it is because light is not doing its job. You are light. So wake up. Wake up.” And then he said it again. “Wake up!"
  • ...

So What?

Jones is clearly the hero in the book. While written for a wider audience both secular and religious, some Christian readers will undoubtedly call Jones a "type" of Jesus. I say this for three reasons. First, like Jesus, Jones has a habit of appearing not too early, nor too late, but just on time. Whether it is the parenting conference, watching sunset, or arriving at a party rendezvous, Jones always appears at a time least expected. There is something really mysterious and fascinating about this man. He comes and he goes, disappearing and appearing without much regard to people's expectations, much like Jesus. Second, Jones not only tells, but he provides opportunities for individuals to shine at their best. Jones has that tendency to not tell people their needs explicitly, but to let them learn for themselves their deepest desires and toward a better understanding of themselves. Take for example Baker Larson, the man who almost shot Jones. Struggling financially and also at a loss of what to do about his future, he is brought to life as he encounters and uses the dream grill! At the same time, he learns from his encounter with Jack that he needs to learn gratitude for the things he already has, rather than envy for the things he does not have. That perspective is something one chooses willingly, and not something thrust upon them unwillingly. In order to help Baker sees that there is hope, Jones cleverly links Baker with someone like Jack who has gone through the fires of trials and have come forth purer and brighter.

Through it all, while the subtitle of the book talks about people finding perspective through their struggles, and how perspective also finds them through various learning moments, there is one more significant thing, which is the third and most important reason. For every person mentioned in the book, all of them have been touched by the Noticer Jones. All of them have benefitted from a change of perspective. All of them did not find Jones. The third reason is: Jones found them. Every character has a common truth. It is Jones who had first touched them. Having been touched, they long to see Jones more. When Jones is not there teaching them, they teach one another. They tell stories and they learn to share perspective, just like Jones. This is what happens when the perspective finds them through a noticing person. By learning to notice, one eventually learns to spread the good news of noticing the beauty of each individual and the wonderful creation around us. Remember how Jesus goes around selecting his twelve disciples, moving in and out of Bethany and Jerusalem, circling the Lake of Galilee? We love because God first loved us. We care because Jesus first cared for us. We share because Jesus first shared of his life and ministry with us.

With this book, Andy Andrews again shows us why he is one of my favourite authors. His simple stories is easily digestible. The taught perspectives are profoundly relevant. The issues highlighted are often the very issues that the common person in the street faces each day. With the way the book ends, I am sure that the noticer will return, again!

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by Thomas-Nelson and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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