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Monday, February 6, 2012

Modern Day Parable

Every once in a while I discover an author that I've not read before. Given that just about everyone and his/her sister fancies him/herself a writer, and that there are more published and self-published books than grains of sand on Jones Beach, it is easy enough to not know about and miss many good novels; let alone being aware of and sifting through the bad ones. What is the saying? Too many books, too little time.

It was by chance while in the library last Thursday to pick three new (to me) audio books and The Turkish Lover: A Memoir by Esmeralda Santiango, that I happened to wander past the "New Books" section. Here is where my local library features, like many other libraries across the country, new acquisitions and new publications before relegating them to the regular stacks for general circulation. Here, also, are many new, worthwhile books—some that haven't made it to The New York Sunday Times Book Review—from which I typically select my readings and/or my own library acquisitions—as well as a bounty of those that have made it to one, if not all, of the Times Book Review best seller lists1.

And here is where I found, on the top shelf of the middle stack, the small (7 1/4" x 5")—almost pocket-sized—hard copy of Lost December: A Novel 2 by Richard Paul Evans. It was the size and cover--a silvery snowflake framed with a shadowy blue background—that caught my attention, not the author's name, of whom I was totally unfamiliar; although, I have since learned, has had all of his eighteen novels appear on the NYTimes best seller lists. Who knew?

Lost December: A Novel is the story of the New Testament parable (Luke: 15:11-24), "The Prodigal Son", told in modern times. Luke Crisp is the son of the CEO and sole owner of an internationally successful Fortune 500 company—a chain of copy centers—which Luke is destined to take over after he graduates from Wharton Business School. He is destined to, yes; but destiny, like the Biblical parable, has its own twists and turns. And Evans deftly weaves the tale of this young man who lets his fate fall out of his own hands into those with whom he shares an abyss of failure. I need not recreate the original story, as it is offered in its entirety as a pre-prologue by Evans. I also need not delve into the plot details nor comment upon the straight-forward depictions and characterizations of the protagonist and those he meets and interacts with on his way to the ultimate destruction of his life and subsequent redemption. However, I will say that Evans is a gifted writer who has taken what has often become a hackneyed tale retold countless times by others less talented and has masterfully re-carved it into a finely-tuned novel. 

The word "prodigal" has been presumed for centuries by many to mean "lost" or "wayward". But, as Evens points out in the preface to Chapter One, its first meaning is "wastefully extravagant". Evans minces no words in exemplifying this more relevant definition by having his hero, Luke, depict his own experiences in the first-person narrative, just as if we were reading his diary, from the point of view, unlike the original parable, of the prodigal—wastefully extravagant—son  With clarity, we are told that the son's life was/is, indeed, one of unmindful extravagance, selfishness, deceitfulness, and wanton abandonment of all he was taught as a child raised by the loving hand of his father, back into which our wasteful wanderer returns. But how that happens is the meat of Evan's masterful manuscript.

I read this novel in one sitting, extravagantly "wasting" most of last Saturday’s late afternoon and early evening. But my time wasn't wasted. I found myself weeping at some points in the novel; cheering in other parts; and in all of it marveling at the fact that I had discovered a new, totally talented author to add to my reading repertoire. When I return this book to the library next week, I will be certain to pick up another novel by Evans. 

After all, as the saying goes, good things do come in small packages.
1Of which, in my opinion, there are far too many: hardcover best sellers, both fiction and non-fiction; trade as well as mass-market paperbacks; e-books, both fiction and non-fiction; children's best sellers, of which there are four separate categories. It often boggles my mind.
2© 2011 by Richard Paul Evans; Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York, NY.

4:13 pm est          Comments

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June J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations, two volumes of poetry, stories for children (of all ages) and a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Miss Elmira's Secret Treasure: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
Colonial Theatre: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Roarin' 20s 
Phoenix Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members

Adventures of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Spinach Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A Collection of More Spiritual Poems

We Three Kings

Beauty and the Beast


Noah's Rainbow

Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding Hood



Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She is currently working on her sixth novel.

June's novels can be purchased at amazon.com, through Barnes and Noble,
at the Historical Society of the Phoenixville Area,
the Gateway Pharmacy in Phoenixvile, PA

For more information about her musicals, which are also available on amazon.com,