Reviewed by Rosemarie Leenerts, Library Assistant
There is probably no better-known Parkinson’s patient than actor Michael J. Fox. In his new book, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, Fox, the beloved star of TV’s Family Ties and the Back to the Future franchise, recounts his recent struggles with the progressive neurological disease that has been a part of his life for three decades.
Fox’s book opens with his latest setback: In August 2018, a few steps after turning the corner into the kitchen of his Manhattan apartment—a simple maneuver for most people—Fox’s unsteady gait due to his Parkinson’s diagnosis brings him crashing to the floor, resulting in an arm fractured in multiple places. Having recently undergone spinal surgery and an extensive rehab that involved plenty of at-home family time and around-the-clock nursing care for a tumor unrelated to Parkinson’s, Fox was finally spending a morning alone before heading to the set of a new film when the fall occurred.
Recalling a note actor Jimmy Cagney once sent him on the first day of a movie set, Fox muses, “Be on time, know your lines, and don’t bump into the furniture. This morning, I was on schedule and I knew my two pages of dialogue, but the third point was a colossal fail.”
All humor aside, living through the spinal surgery and therapy, which required Fox to relearn how to walk, was mentally and physically taxing even for the self-proclaimed incurable optimist, but the spiral fracture of the arm was even more crushing.
“Parkinson’s and the tumor on my spine,” he writes, “were easier to accept than the broken arm. . . . Stealthy and insidious, they had crept up on me. The arm crisis was there in an instant, an explosion. A cataclysm.”
After the fall, Fox writes of a darkened mood and feelings of despair having to live with a disease that can erase what much of humanity takes for granted, things like being able to sit still without uncontrollable tremors or walking with perfect balance, not needing to concentrate on every step in order to remain upright. But being an optimist and someone who can appreciate the good life he has aside from his health issues, Fox, who has raised more than $800 million for Parkinson’s research through his foundation, is able to turn his attention away from his own misery, appreciating what others who suffer through “very real depression and marginalization” experience. “The death of a child; the loss of liberty; the exile from home or country. There is no end to sadness,” he writes.
With sections labeled with pithy titles and plenty of humor mixed in, No Time Like the Future is a book bound to make readers take stock of the good they have and give them strength for when the world hands them more downs than ups.
No Time Like the Future is available to reserve and check out via curbside pickup from Herrick Library.