A young woman receives a manuscript left to her by her great-grandfather that changes how she understands herself and the world.
This unique literary novel is half warm family tale and half philosophical/spiritual meditation. When Ellen Marie takes her husband and baby daughter to visit her great-grandmother in South Florida, she has no idea of the treasure that’s been kept for her. She was only five when she visited Papa and Nana in their Port Ludlow, WA condo, and never had the chance to return. Thus, her Papa didn’t get the opportunity to pass along the life lessons he wanted her to have. But Ian Barrett MacLogan doesn’t let a little thing like chronological time get in the way of such an important matter. He wrote a journal that covers a two-week vacation that he imagined would have happened when Ellen was twelve or so. During this imagined trip, he details all of their adventures and the words of wisdom he and his beloved wife shared with her.
“Well, remember, Nana and I promised some time back to talk with you only about truth and not about facts.”
The plot itself alternates smoothly between grown up Ellen’s visit with Nana in Florida and this imagined visit to Port Ludlow. Both realities are filled with wonderful characters and finely wrought scenic descriptions that helped shape and advance the story. Through out the book, I felt as if I were right there. This grounding of the senses kept me tethered through the more abstract and esoteric discussions of the nature of the soul and its place both in creation and as co-creator of its own experience.
McLendon has a warm, rich writing style that is full of humor. His characters are people you feel you know…or wish you knew. I felt a special affinity to Cy, Nana’s elderly neighbor. He’s a holocaust survivor, whose own experiences of the non-material kind leave him in need of daily assurance that he is, indeed, still among the living. Cy’s wonderful mix of sprightly energy and human vulnerability made for some of the most memorable scenes, especially during the book’s rather “electrifying” climax.
PAPA’S GIFT made me laugh, cry, and wonder. It also left me remembering Papa’s words of encouragement to Ellie about the time and pacing of her spiritual growth, an insight that I find myself repeating throughout the day: “There is no deadline. There is no hurry. There is no rush hour in eternity.”