The Widower, by Ryan LaForge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK DESCRIPTION: Young lawyer Jacob McKinley–Old Charleston money and socialite–had it all until God took his loving new bride, Leah, in an instant.
Dr. Bill Foster, dynamo pastor and Leah’s father, empowers Jacob to find a way forward in his battles with his resentful widowed mother, a sister-in-law who blames Jacob for Leah’s death, ruthless business partners–and God.
Spunky grad student Rachel Anders sparks Jacob from prolonged malaise and self-perceived guilt for his incomplete work as a husband. When Jacob gets a chance to save the life of Rachel’s teenage brother, bonds form. But what about these feelings he’s developed for Rachel? Is there a timetable on loving another?
God lays the path back to faith, life, and love in Jacob’s lap. If only the silver-spoon boy can step up and become a man again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kairos Prize-finalist Ryan LaForge writes contemporary fiction for one reason: for fun. He hopes you'll have fun with his stuff too. Oh, and if there's a decent message along the way, that's even better. When Ryan is not watching movies or Clemson and Gonzaga sports, he's usually chasing around his two killer kids, Elle and Jacob. He lives with his wife, Shanda, and the fam in Greenville, S.C.
MY THOUGHTS: I opted out of reading the book summary before finishing the book, and am I glad I did! Yes, this is a loved-and-lost-and-loves-again story, but it's so much deeper than that. Jacob has barely gotten his feet under him as a married man, as a Christian, and as a reformed party-boy bachelor, when his wife is killed. How he continues on his journey without her physically there to help him is really what this book is all about.
I've come to find that I prefer reading a love story written by a man, especially if a man is the main character, and Mr. LaForge does not disappoint. He provides just enough details that you know something more is there, just waiting to be revealed. I wondered how long I'd have to wait before finding out how Leah died, and the suspense kept me flipping digital pages.
The author also has a strong command of vocabulary, and there was never a point at which I felt I could just skim through some pages or skip spots because they were fluff. What my high-school English teacher would refer to as "50-cent words" were sprinkled over every page, making me dig out a dictionary a time or two. Considering that Jacob is an intelligent, successful lawyer, this writing style fit the overall mood of the book.
On a personal note, I'll be recommending this to all my Lowcountry friends, as Mr. LaForge really did his homework before he set his book in Charleston, SC. Life as someone who comes from multiple generations South of Broad is unique to this historical city, and I held my breath when I realized the author had chosen that as the birthplace of his blue-blooded main character. Colloquialisms, local haunts, food, culture--he hit the nail on the head in all the fine details, down to common first and last names in Charleston society.
**SIDENOTE: Nice touch to name the characters Jacob, Leah, and Rachel, and to throw a bone to the Gamecocks fans. :)
PARENTAL RATING: PG. The grief is real in this book and would be a great topic for conversations about how we deal with loss. Regret and forgiveness are also heavy themes, as well as organ donors, selflessness, and relationships with family and friends. There are lots of talking points to jump off of throughout the book. When reflecting back on his memories with Leah, Jacob's thoughts never veer into areas inappropriate for teen readers, nor does the budding relationship with Rachel. The spiritual truths Jacob hears from others and experiences himself as he matures are solid. I will definitely be passing this along to my teen girls and looking forward to more from this author.
At the time I write this review, Amazon is listing The Widower at $2.99, a huge bargain for what you'll get out of this book.
**I was provided a copy of The Widower in exchange for my honest opinion.