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The Right Words at the Right Time    by Marlo Thomas order for
Right Words at the Right Time
by Marlo Thomas
Order:  USA  Can
Atria, 2004 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is a compendium of 110 short accounts of 'right words' spoken at the 'right time' to influence the course of people's lives. Marlo Thomas introduces them with an Indian proverb that ends 'tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.' These are indeed tales to live in the heart, made more fascinating by the fact that they tell us of influences and mentors to those who are now rich and famous, from Muhammad Ali to the Dalai Lama. The introduction also mentions that 'royalties from this book will help fund research now underway at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital'.

The distilled wisdom of many lives includes advice from parents and presidents, mentors and mothers-in-law. Danny Thomas encouraged his daughter to 'Run your own race'. Dwight Eisenhower taught his biographer Stephen Ambrose to 'never question another man's motives. His wisdom, yes, but not his motives.' Ruth Bader Ginsburg, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, was advised by her mother-in-law that 'In every good marriage, it pays sometimes to be a little deaf.' Books are mentioned as sources of wisdom, such as Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and Sense and Sensibility.

Whoopi Goldberg's mother advised her that nonconformity 'is not going to be easy because being different never is.' A former Chief of the Cherokee Nation quotes a Mohawk saying that 'It is hard to see the future with tears in your eyes.' Paul McCartney dreamed his mother's advice 'Let it be.' Steven Spielberg remembers 'Be sure you're right, then go ahead' from the movie Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. Barbara Walters speaks of a telegram from John Wayne, 'Don't let the bastards get you down.' And Julie Taymor quotes Carlos Castaneda, 'When it all seems impossible, focus on the point in front of you, follow it like a hawk and forget everything else.'

There are many threads in common in these vignettes, such as to focus on the positive and march to your own drummer, but also advice that is unique. And it is fascinating to find out more about the backgrounds of people like Toni Morrison, Candice Bergen, Rudolph Giuliani, Itzhak Perlman and Oprah Winfrey. Dip into this book at times when you need inspiration, or give copies to friends or family members who may be approaching turning points in their own lives.

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