Book Review: The Gift, by Cecilia Ahern

Lou is a hardworking soul. In fact, his life is ‘juggling meetings and events’, rushing around like clockwork, attending the first half of a meeting only to miss the rest to join a second. He’s pretty much ‘in two places at the same time’, as Ahern puts it: even what he says often carries insincerity or double meanings. Day after day, week after week, Lou and his Blackberry go round and round again, never skipping a beat.

And yet, he is despised by his family. His brothers and sisters. His children. His wife. Why? He’s a workaholic and a No-no-family man.

Count him  out of events. He may say he’ll try his best to go while flashing his porcelain smile, but he only ever makes it for dessert. He might’ve bought a huge house for his family and a six-foot wide bed for his wife and himself, but while his body is with his family, his heart is elsewhere. Buried in the morning post, or the evening news. Never listening to his wife and children, and not even attending his fiver-year-old daughter Lucy’s school play.

But then every man driving in the wrong direction deserves a second chance. An opportunity to find life, to find what is right and experience it for real. Along comes Gabe: a homeless man, though surprisingly wise. Lou gives him a job as mailman of the building, delivering letters up and down the floors, and Gabe quickly becomes a new junior star. Not exactly what Lou expects, or wants, for that matter.

Jealousy comes over Lou as Gabe seems to bounce higher with every passing day while he tumbles into the everlasting crevasse of trouble. Gabe also, oddly, resembles Lou – could they eventually switch places? Would the workaholic end up begging on the streets, abandoned by his family? Or will he change just in time?

This Christmas story is highly moral, continuously stressing that we should appreciate time and family, and not take anything for granted. I do admit that these are incredibly cliche morals, and some parts of the story are unrealistic, but, to my surprise, The Gift does deliver these in a refreshing and touching turn of events. It is hard to put yourself in Lou’s shoes: how many of us are that obsessed with work? (Well, one characteristic world climbers may share with Lou is that they’re never satisfied with what they have.) But what’s brilliant is that the message will ring clear to any audience.

Trust me, you won’t regret reading this novel. It’s a great investment of time, and it just might save you a lot of trouble later on. Appreciate it while you can, Lou Suffern.