Short, easy to read and to implement

Out of the Maze - Spencer Johnson

Thanks to NetGalley and to Ebury Digital for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although Who Moved My Cheese? was published a long time ago (in 1998) and I had seen it around, I only learned more about it when I was working on the translation of a self-help book. The author referred to Johnson’s fable in his text and I had to check it out. When I saw this sequel announced on NetGalley I felt curious.

Most of you will be familiar with the first book, but in short, it is the fable of two mice and two little people who live in a maze and feed on cheese that magically appears every day. Suddenly, after things have been like this for a long time, the cheese disappears. The two mice go as well, seemingly looking for more cheese, but the two little people don’t agree on what to do. One of them decides to try to find more cheese, while the other stays put, convinced that things will go back to the way they were soon enough. As is the case with all good fables, lessons are learned.

In this book, the central fable is framed by a discussion group. The class has been talking about the original book, and one of the students asks what happen to the character left behind. The teacher then comes back with a story, which is the follow-up to the previous one, but this time the protagonist is Hem, the character left behind. Throughout the book he meets hope, has to confront his set of beliefs, and learns invaluable lessons.

Like the previous one, this book is really short, under 100 pages, and that includes a note from one of the author’s collaborators and some background to this work. The author died from pancreatic cancer in 2017, and the story of how he handled his disease (including a letter he wrote to his cancer) is also an important part of the book.  

The book, like its predecessor, does not provide brand-new ideas or earth-shattering insights. Having said that, the lessons become easier to remember because they are provided in the format of a fable.  Having the distance and the perspective afforded by reading about imaginary characters in an imaginary situation allows people to think about their own lives and find similarities in outlook that might not be welcome if pointed out directly or if our behaviour is confronted head-on. Realising something for oneself is much more effective and causes less resistance than having somebody tell us where we went wrong.

The discussion group and its members also provide some examples of real-life situations and how to deal with them.

In sum, this is a short book, written in simple language, easy to read, and it can be useful to people who feel stuck in a rut and cannot see a way forward. It would also provide useful and easy read to course facilitators looking into topics such as belief-systems and how to change one’s perspective.