Joe Hart’s parents died when he was ten leaving him to be brought up by his aunt and uncle in the Adirondack mountains where his uncle worked as a guide. Joe considered himself pretty average; average height, average weight, average coloring. When he mentions that he’s not happy being average to his uncle, his reply is “Do what the other fella can’t. Be what the other fella ain’t. And then help the other fella.” Joe takes this advice to heart becoming a distinguished Navy commander and later a respected attorney.
Preston Wilson grew up with the best of everything, except maybe parents. He was sent away to private schools and was seldom visited by his parents. As a young child and into his teens, Preston’s father spent one week a year with him camping in the Adirondack mountains. One year, he fell in a crevice and was rescued by the guide’s nephew, Joe. Shortly after that Preston’s parents divorced and Preston decided that he would not be like his father. He would be successful and powerful. To that end, he worked to build a business spanning several states. Things were going well, or so Preston thought, until the economy tanked and Preston suddenly owed thousands of dollars to the banks with no way to pay it. His attorneys suggested bankruptcy but Preston wants to track down the one attorney who might be able to help get him out of this financial mess, Joe Hart.
Joe has escaped to the mountains after his wife is killed in a drive by shooting. He has no desire to return to work but reluctantly agrees to help Preston with three conditions. The first two have to do with the actual case, giving Joe all information he requests and letting him take charge. The last though is vague and needs to be given on faith. Not sure but with no other options, Preston agrees.
Joe works hard to pull off a miracle for Preston but things aren’t wonderful. Preston’s wife has gone to her mothers and Joe finds it necessary to have Preston fulfill his third agreement. Preston has to meet and earn the trust of Joe’s “collectibles”. These are people, friend’s of Joe’s, who need someone there for them. They have issues ranging from an abusive ex-husband to being mentally challenged. These are all people Preston would normally have nothing to do with. Can he break free of his selfish behavior long enough to get to know these people? And why is Joe doing this? With no choice, Preston proceeds and might even learn more than he expects!
For a debut novel, Mr Kaufman has outdone himself. This book is nothing short of incredible and extremely heartwarming. I wasn’t too sure about this book when I started it but when I finished it, I was so glad that I had the opportunity to read this outstanding story.
The characters are awesome. While Joe considers himself average, no one else does. He takes the time to care about those he comes in contact with earning the respect of everyone. Preston is the product of the environment that he grew up in but he is open to change if shown where it will benefit him. He’s selfish but doesn’t truly realize it. Moving out of his comfort zone is eye opening.
It’s not just the main characters that are so well done. Each “collectible” has their own personality, issues and life. They exemplify many people that most of us shy away from. Yet, each is likeable in their own way and you become involved in their lives.
A couple of minor annoyances were also present in this story. The first was Joe’s life’s timeline and his military career. He is portrayed as perhaps in his early to mid 40s. Not too old but not too young either. To become a commander of any Navy ship, he would have had to be in the Navy for quite a few years. Then, to make a name for himself as a lawyer after leaving the Navy, it would again take a few years unless he hit a big profile case. But given that he retained military medical privileges which you only get if you retired, that would usually make him in his early 40s upon retirement. The other is concerning Bethesda Naval Hospital. They would not have been able to get medical records as fast as it was given or appointments that quickly, unless you’re a member of Congress. Still, it is an outstanding hospital with an excellent medical staff. But again, these were only minor issues and only struck me due to being in the military.
Overall, I can’t say enough good things about this story. By the end, I was in tears. It drew me in emotionally and just wouldn’t let me go. I felt as if I knew these characters and they had become part of my life. Their problems became mine and their issues were real. I was rooting for Preston to see beyond his life and his realities to become a man that you could be proud to call your friend. With the end of this book, I felt as if I had lost a friend and truly felt as if I, as a person, had gained something.
In his debut novel, James J. Kaufman delivers a gripping and unforgettable story of two strong men from separate wolds - one touched by tragedy, the other by greed - brought together with unexpected results. In chronicling how their lives and those they touch are dramatically changed by their encounter, Kaufman reveals the power of relationships, the nature of love, and ultimately the meaning of life.