The Why Cafe
John Strelecky
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Buy *The Why Cafe: A Story* by John Strelecky online

The Why Cafe: A Story
John Strelecky
Da Capo
144 pages
April 2006
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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John Strelecky is an inspirational speaker, founder of a charity designed to help people live out their dreams. He wrote a book called The Why You Are Here Café in 2003, and in 2006 it has been “modernized,” apparently to keep up to date with advances in America’s coffee craze. The Why Café echoes words like “wi-fi” and “café wha” and the new cover, with its depiction of a steaming latte instead of the usual diner cuppa rustica that one might expect at the diner described in the book, is obviously designed to catch the eye of the coffee cognoscenti.

The Why Café is pure allegory, about a man named John. John might agree with Dante Alighieri who wrote so dramatically at the beginning of The Inferno,

In the middle of our life's way
I found myself in a wood so dark
That I couldn't tell where the straight path lay.
John is rushing towards something, or away from something, not really aware of how harried he is. He runs out of gas and winds up at the Why Café, where the menu asks the questions:
Why are you here?

Do you fear death?

Are you fulfilled?
These are tough questions and at first John is able to ignore them, but like Dante, he is being impelled by unseen forces. The answers are all readily available, as it turns out, right there in the Why Café. The waitress, Casey, will supply one piece of the puzzle in her allegory-within-the-allegory about a green sea turtle. The turtle’s lesson is to go with the flow – of the waves – instead of pushing against it. The proprietor, Mike, spins a fishing yarn whose point is that if you already have what you want, you don’t need to spend your energies trying to get what you don’t really need. And so the saga of John’s own search unfolds, through the eyes and the wisdom of others.

The book doesn’t have a conclusive ending. It doesn’t say “do this and everything will be better.” In fact, John has to admit, “I really don’t know which direction I’m supposed to go now.” For an answer, Mike points him down the road, as though there was literally a way for John to get to where he needs to go. But they both know that whatever happens next, it will be up John to find the path.

The Why Café can be read as a harmless diversion off the highway, or a series of signposts. It’s up to you.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Barbara Bamberger Scott, 2006

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