“Younger Than That Now” by Jeff Durstewitz and Ruth Williams

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“Younger Than That Now” is a dual memoir by two friends (one from Long Island, the other from Mississippi) who met as teenagers during the late-1960s and carried on a remarkable friendship over 30-plus years, mainly through the lost art of letter writing. I won’t go into detail about how these two very different people became friends, or what they experienced during the period detailed in this book, because the less you know about what happens, the better your experience will be reading “Younger.” (Some well-known people have prominent supporting roles.) What I will say is that the book is a very moving chronicle of how two thoughtful people lived and grew during one of the most tumultuous periods of American history.

I remember hearing about “Younger” when it came out in 2000, but didn’t get around to reading it until recently. I’m glad that I waited, because I’m now only a few years younger than the authors when they wrote this book. I haven’t experienced the same level of ups and downs Durstewitz and Williams have in their lives, but I’ve lived long enough to appreciate the complicated journey from adolescence to middle-age portrayed here. Despite how certain many of us were when we were younger about how things are supposed to work, real life has a funny way of setting us straight. Most people I know who are my age or older have lived lives that have not traveled in straight lines. We’ve experienced ups, downs, curveballs, and detours along the way. If there’s one thing that was more valued by the 1960s generation than by Generation X, Y an everything afterwards, it’s the virtue of having what I call “scar tissue,” meaning the wisdom gained from falling on your face, making mistakes, or receiving what life throws at you despite your best planning. If you’re middle-aged, you know exactly what I’m talking about, though it’s sometimes hard to see in the way that many people in my generation portray themselves in social media … going from “win” to “win” every day. I’m glad that Durstewitz and Williams were as painfully honest about their lives as they were, because it helped me appreciate the complicated path that’s been my life. My life hasn’t always been “fun,” but it hasn’t been boring. And the things that I value in my life mean a lot to me more because of the bumps in the road I encountered, not in spite of it.

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