Levi Crowne has big plans to become someone important, to make lots of money, and to achieve recognition. He's got one more year of college and while his friends land enviable internships and exciting summer jobs, he comes up with being a box boy for a supermarket. With just a few weeks of summer left, he finally gets his big chance when a wealthy relative hires him to fly to North Dakota, rent a car, and drive her elderly widowed father back to Utah. With an open ended credit card and the promise of a big pay off at the end of the trip, he quickly agrees, quits his job, and heads for North Dakota.
Loyal has lived in North Dakota all of his life. He ran the only pharmacy in town until a big box store moved in and drove him out of business, but he was past retirement age anyway. His wife is deceased and his children have moved away. His daughter, Barbara, decides it's time for him to move into the Glad Tidings Assisted Living Facility in Bountiful, Utah, so he'll be closer to her. It's not easy telling the people he's known all of his life good-bye and climbing into a fast, red car driven by a great nephew he doesn't even know.
Loyal and Levi set out in the bright red car even though a severe storm is moving toward them. Levi has visions of driving straight through to Utah and collecting his money as quickly as possible. The storm slows them down, forcing them to stop for several hours. Little by little the two begin to talk and a feeling of kinship develops between them. Soon they're taking side trips, staying at out-of-the-way hotels, and meeting an odd array of people. They go fishing and mountain climbing as the old man fulfills some of the dreams he never had time for and Levi learns to slow down and enjoy the ride.
I found Levi to be immature for a man who is twenty-four years old. He's more like a seventeen-year-old. Still I understand the author's need to show his beginning immaturity in order to show the changes that mature him and make him a better, wiser person. The older man is a sympathetic likable person and even when I felt he was stalling to postpone spending the rest of his life in a care facility, his style was gracious and accepting.
Even with roaring down the highway in a fast, red car and fishing in a cold Montana stream, this isn't a book that can be called an action story. This is a story that urges the reader to slow down, to look, to do, and to consider others. It's also a story that reminds readers that no one gets everything they want in this life and getting the prize one thinks he wants isn't nearly as important as the journey, the living along the way.
I've heard a lot of names for this kind of book, feel good, philosophy, sermonettes, stop and smell the roses, emotionals, etc. Often this genre falls into the tear jerker or lay-on-the-guilt trip category and frequently are impractical, unrealistic, preachy, and leave me feeling I'm being manipulated. Yet there's something about many of them that invites introspection and they certainly sell well. I like this one. I never felt my emotions were being manipulated, nor is it preachy, and it doesn't solve all of life's problems. It's simply the story of two people whose lives intersect at opposite ends and they learn they each have something of value to offer the other.
Donald Smurthwaite is a native of Portland, Oregon. He and his wife are the parents of four children. He has written for several magazines and has authored eight novels.
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ROAD TO BOUNTIFUL by Donald S. Smurthwaite, published by Covenant Communications, 179 pages, soft cover $14.99, also available on CD and e-reader.
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