The kick off to Late Night Book Club this semester is The Ultimate Gift. Though the byline, “What would you be willing to do in order to inherit one billion dollars? Jason Stevens is about to find out…” might have you believe it is a suspenseful drama, you will find out it is instead an inspirational novel.
This is a book about Jason, a bratty and ungrateful great-nephew of an oil tycoon who must spend a year doing tasks set out for him by his late great-uncle in order to receive his inheritance of the “ultimate gift.” Throughout the book, like all inspirational novels, Jason undergoes a transformation meant to inspire and encourage readers to better themselves in one way or another, supposedly giving the readers all the tools to do the same for their life as Jason did to his.
While absolutely cliché in every way, The Ultimate Gift has a great story behind it. That story belongs to the author, Jim Stovall. His autobiography would be ten times more interesting to read then the highly contrived and sometimes forced life-lessons Jason learns.
Stovall lost his eyesight at a young age but continued to know commercial and personal success. He is an author and an investment broker today, but before that he accomplished some remarkable things. Stovall is a national champion and Olympic weightlifter; he was honored as the International Humanitarian of the Year in 2000, and is the president of the Narrative Television Network which he cofounded, all while dealing with the day-to-day challenges of blindness.
Despite his book falling flat, Stovall is a real inspirational story.
In a fictional memoir of Kathy, a Carer from the private school of Hailsham, author Kazuo Ishiguro creates a masterful and carefully crafted story of childhood friendship that takes his characters through the rest of their lives in his book, Never Let Me Go.
Ishiguro presents the friendship of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy, who meet at their boarding school in England. However, the reader is slowly included into the dark fate that rests with the heroes of this tale. As the three friends grow up, they begin to understand their destiny and reveal to the reader small snippets of the bigger picture outside of their world of innocence.
Kathy begins her tale reflecting on her early childhood at Hailsham, a private boarding school. It is at school that she starts the discovery process of who she really is and what she is destined to accomplish.
After turning 15, Kathy and her friends are sent to remote cottages deep within the English countryside, and it is there that they fully begin to understand their role in society as they work to fit in with a new group of peers.
The book returns to Kathy’s present, where she continues to outline the direction her life has taken her and reveals her friends’ fate, along with her own. Her heartbreaking tale of true realization of life’s reality and her role within it holds the reader’s attention up until the last word.
A New York Times Notable Book and Man Booker Prize Finalist, Ishiguro’s book uses an unparalleled skill of rhetoric to captivate his audience and draw them in. Ishiguro weaves together the age-old story of innocence destroyed by the knowledge of reality with a dark twist that constantly leaves the reader guessing and wanting more of the story.
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