Sunday, October 28, 2018

Book Review: "This Can't Wait" by Luke P. Narlee

"Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary."
—Robin Williams, Dead Poets Society

This quote kept racing through my head while reading Luke Narlee's newest book, This Can't Wait. This is a book about about chance, about taking control of a moment, because you never know when you'll get another one like it.

But mostly, this simply yet beautifully told book is about love—what it's like when it first arrives, what it's like when it's gone, and how desperate so many of us are to find it, in its many different forms. It's not a unique message but it's one that is all too necessary to hear, especially in the chaos of the world around us.

Adam Arthur is an author. (How's that for a tongue-twister?) He tells love stories. And he should know of them, because he and his wife Hadley had the perfect one for many years. Now, as he nears the end of his life, he needs surgery he might not survive, or if he does, he might lose his sight. He's perfectly fine with dying, as he's ready to be reunited with Hadley again, although he worries about his daughter and granddaughter.

"In my opinion, we get more than one chance at living, but we don't always find our soulmate in each given lifetime. Or we do find them, but we don't realize their significance. This lifetime, I did. And I have no doubt that I will find Hadley again in my next life after I've moved on from this one."

The appearance of an unexpected stranger who happens to be one of Adam's biggest fans buoys his confidence as he heads into surgery. She encourages him to share the story of when he and Hadley first met, and tells him to think about all of his stories that remain untold. If he awakens from surgery unable to see, she volunteers to be his scribe, to ensure he at least has one last book in him.

The bulk of this novel are those stories, loosely connected in ways that may take you a few minutes to realize, but never gimmicky. From the story of the man who might have missed his one chance at true happiness during a fleeting bar encounter, to the woman who becomes so convinced her husband has been unfaithful (through flawed but understandable reasoning) that she can't be happy in the here and now, to the woman so tired of meeting Mr. Wrong that she's willing to pay for Mr. Right, but doesn't know what that will mean for her in the end, and my favorite, the story of a couple so destined for each other but it takes a number of lifetimes to get it right.

In a way, this book felt a little like one of those movies that is a compilation of different people's stories, although some of these follow characters through the years. Some of the stories resonated more for me than others, but I enjoyed all of them, and each touched my heart and made me think in some way. All too often we're told not to let chances slip us by, and this book, and these stories demonstrate the consequences of doing so, as well as the beauty that occurs when we seize those chances.

This is Narlee's third book. Each one is very different—his first book, Guest Bed, was a little bit of a romantic thriller, while The Appointment: Lost & Found was a book set in a disturbing vision of the future. With each book, Narlee's storytelling gets stronger, and with this book, he really has hit his stride.

I've said before, I am an unabashed sap, one of those people who cries during emotionally provoking commercials. This Can't Wait didn't quite choke me up, but it did make me think, and made me realize again how much what we read provides us glimpses of the human heart in ways we might not have expected.

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