While telling my friend Rosana about this book earlier today, and while I was informally and redundantly trying to explain the essence of “The Gift”, she wittily managed to summarize the whole book in no more than one John Lennon quote: “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Welcome to the hectic life of Lou Suffern, a workaholic white-collar manager who can never tolerate the trifles of everyday life to keep him away from his beloved 14th floor. Lou is a busy man, he always has to be in two places at the same time. He’s a devoted man, a friendly co-worker and a “fierce” negotiator. He can do anything for his company, and anything against his competitors. On the other hand, Lou is a lousy husband, father and son. His work comes first. There is no room for quality-time with his family. Actually, there is no room for any kind of time with his family.
Enter Gabe. Gabe is the homeless guy whom was offered a job by Lou. The new mail-person turns Lou’s life upside down. He always appears when and where you expect him the least. His questions are odd, his comments are uneasy to swallow, and he always hits a nerve to the point that Lou started to regret having offered him the job in the first place. But it was too late, now. Gabe got to know everyone in the building and became very popular among everyone there including Mr. Patterson, Lou’s boss.
As the story unravels, Lou goes in and out of many difficult situations because of his extreme devotion to his work. His relationship with his family worsens and Pud, his one-year-old baby boy, almost doesn’t recognize him, anymore. The good news, though, is that he gets a promotion. An achievement to which his wife explodes in the following passage:
“And what was it all for? For a promotion? A pay rise that you didn’t even need? More work hours in a day that just aren’t humanly possibly to achieve? When will you stop? When will it all be enough for you? How high do you want to climb, Lou? you know what, last week you said that only a job can fire you, but a family can’t. But I think you’re about to realize that the latter is possible, after all.”
By the end of the story, Lou discovers what he’s been missing out. He understands that skating with his five-year-old daughter is more important than making unneeded extra money. He understands that holding his baby boy is worth the world. He understands that holding his wife’s hand is what it’s all about. Yet, it was too late to make it up for the family. While this stream of consciousness struck him, he drove back over-speeding and tragically lost his soul trapped inside his Porsche.
Contrary to what one might expect, this book is not an average “Chick-Lit” book. The theme of love exists, indeed. However, it’s not an “I’m longing for your kiss, sweetheart” kind of book. It’s a serious book that tackles one of our major concerns in today’s modern life.
In “The Gift,” Cecelia Ahern discusses one of the major challenges 21st century citizens face; time, and how to deal with it. the message is clear. Ahern insists that time is the greatest gift we have. It is what life is made of and we have to do all it takes to reconcile work duties and family matters.
“The Gift” is a relatively easy to read book, but it’s full of unexpected twists. I had to re-read some pages when I felt I was lost. The writing style switches from funny to sarcastic, to emotional, but sometimes it becomes boring, just a bit boring! Nevertheless, the plot is intriguing, so the reader must be attentive to the details as twists change unexpectedly.
The important detail that still confuses me, is why did Ahern choose to tell a story within a story? “The Turkey Boy” story within this book was unnecessary and of very little value to the book. It felt like Ahern was looking for a carrier to pass her message to the reader and chose Sergeant Raphael O’Reilly to do the storytelling, but I think this was unnecessary.
Also, the final page where she spoke directly to the reader, made her sound like a teacher lecturing about the importance of time. That, too, is an insult to the readers’ intelligence. Anyone can understand the reasons why the book was written without the writer screaming them at us.
All in all, I enjoyed this book and I recommend reading it to anyone who still thinks family should come after career. After all, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.