The Gift

The Gift, by Richard Paul Evans.  Released October 2007 by Simon & Schuster.

The Gift opens with a soliloquoy dated “Christmas night 2006,” but best-selling author Richard Paul Evans carefully maintains from page one on that “this is not a Christmas story.”   Maybe.  Maybe not.

Protagonist Nathan Hurst is an in-house detective for Salt Lake City-based MusicWorld (p. 11).  He was also born with Tourette’s syndrome and about “twenty different manifestations from vocal tics to head jerking and grimacing” (p. 3) and “the need to touch sharp objects” (pp. 5,6).  That’s not all.  Among the other heavy personal baggage Hurst carries is an intense aversion to Christmas due to the tragic loss of his brother on that day and his father’s subsequent suicide a year later, also on December 25.  Hurst’s childhood destroyed, his family all but gone, Nathan’s mother “was never well after that” (p. 7).  He leaves home at age 16 and rarely – if ever – looks back:

“Christmas was just another day on the calendar.  I never believed it could be otherwise until I met Addison, Elizabeth, and Collin.

The Bible says that God has chosen the weak things of this world to confound the things which are mighty.  My story is about one of God’s weak things.  His name is Collin, a frail, beautiful little boy with a very special gift.”

Special, indeed.  Like another Child of long ago.

Stranded in a Denver airport by a Thanksgiving snowstorm, Hurst has a raging fever, a bad case of bronchitis and an even more severe case of unresolved guilt.  His dynamo office assistant who never misses a beat, Miche, has booked him two appointments: one with the presidential suite in the airport hotel and another with the doctor.

Standing in a “long line outside the Delta help counter,” Nathan meets Addison Park and her two young children, Elizabeth (age 5), and Collin (age 9).  The boy has leukemia.  And something else.  A gift.  A remarkable, incredible gift that the cynical, jaded Hurst experiences first-hand.  Collin is a generous, affectionate young boy.  He wants to help others, but exercising the gift comes at a terrible price to Collin and those who love him, especially his mother.

As the story develops we meet an avaricious ex-husband with the ethics of an Anaconda, Hurst’s rarely lucid mother, now in a nursing home, a teenage boy whose brain cancer has him teetering on the rim edge of imminent death, hordes of hucksters looking for a quick buck and skeptics looking for a quick headline, a boss who makes Simon Lagree look like the tooth fairy, a doctor who repays a great kindness with his own unexpected generosity, and a certain in-house detective who hasn’t been able to maintain a relationship beyond the expiration date on a carton of milk but finally finds love, forgiveness, and peace.

Peppered with excerpts from Nathan Hurst’s journal, a trademark Evans technique, The Gift is a story of healing in all its various phases and forms.  The book, which can be easily read in an uninterrupted afternoon, quickly engages the reader who learns along with Hurst that “no hurt is so great that love cannot heal it” – and that Christmas “is indeed the season of miracles.”

In The Gift Evans returns to what he does best: skillful, heartfelt, first-person storytelling.  Evans has an unusual talent for crafting a tale in such a way that you feel as if he’s seated across from you at your kitchen table, sipping a cup of coffee and telling you his own story.  The Gift includes some unusual plot twists and turns, but focuses on themes of love, loss, tragedy, hurt and healing.  Skillfully woven throughout the entire story is a gentle message of hope.   As Elizabeth opines in the Epilogue:

“In the end, love wins” says Hurst – or is it Evans? – “There could be no greater message of Christmas than that.”

In other words, as Richard himself says: “In the end, Love wins.”

I think he’s on to something.

This is a wonderful “non-Christmas” Christmas story.  Richard Paul Evans fans will eat this one up as surely as newbies will discover a good book is also a good friend.  Enjoy!

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