Coffee. Mistakes. Second Chances. Famous Writers. Respect.
On one level, How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill is a feel-good book about a man in his sixties who is down on his luck and is offered a job at a local Starbucks. On another level, the book is a study in contrasts: a driving executive vs. a thoughtful barista, a life of privilege vs. a life of struggle, despotism vs. compassion and respect, opulence vs. simplicity.
Briefly, at the beginning of the book, Michael Gates Gill is a 63 year old man who is down on his luck. He was laid off from his job as a high powered executive ten years earlier and is now unable to support himself as a consultant. He is divorced with four grown children from his first marriage and a son by a woman with whom he had an affair. One day while having coffee, he is half-playfully asked if he would like to apply for a job at a Starbucks. Realizing that this might be one of his last chances, he jumps at the job. The book describes his struggle to master the job. It also describes his earlier life, complete with name dropping of the many famous writers he met over the years. He was a man used to giving orders and now finds himself taking orders from people he might not have treated with respect in his earlier life.
Carl Jung talked about exploring the less developed parts of our personalities in the second half of our lives. This seems to me what Gill describes in How Starbucks Saved My Life. We see a man who is very different from his younger self: more yin, nurturing, content, and sentimental. This is a lovely book that affirms what it is like to be a human being.