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West Review by Laurie Gauger

James Andrew
Rising Star Studios

Direct Link

As a homeschooling mom, I typically find myself knee deep in books. Textbooks tend to make up the majority of my reading selections these days, whether they are for science, history, or language arts. Oh, there are also plenty of chapter books to read as extensions to our lessons. These tend to be geared for the junior high/high school crowd however. Honestly, it seems that it is a rarity for me to have the pleasure of a leisurely afternoon, parked on the sofa with a book just for me. I often feel guilty that I’m reading, when I should be doing something “productive”. But sometimes, the most productive thing that I can do, is to take a break from the flurry of activity that often accompanies homeschooling families and allow myself a mind break. The opportunity to review the book, West, by James Andrew, was such a break.

Before it arrived, I knew nothing about the theme or genre of this book.  All I knew was, that this time, it was for me! The little blurb on the back cover was intriguing. A hitchhiker accepts a ride with an odd, elderly couple who are heading west. They begin a long, winding journey with many supernatural types of events that occur. Is this trip a dream, or reality? Well, that teaser piqued my curiosity, and I happily set myself up in a cozy chair with a cup of tea and set to reading.

From the first page, the reader is working to sort out the mysterious background of the main character, Christopher Wilks. Author James Andrew does an effective job in setting the mysterious stage. It is nighttime, cold, and raining. Christopher is unsuccessful in his attempts to hitch a ride. In the opening chapter, it becomes apparent that he has recently lost everything, as we read about various items that have been repossessed. Then comes a sort of foretelling in the sentence, “There had been a string of...significant repossessions, the most devastating being those of his confidence and of his courage.” Pay attention to that statement, as it is central to the theme.

After struggling in what looks like a futile attempt to secure a ride, Christopher comes across a discarded piece of cardboard with the word “West” written across the front. It matters very little where he’s going, so he holds it up, in a final effort. Lo and behold, an old station wagon pulls off to the side, and Christopher gets in. He asks the old couple that occupy the front seats of the car where they are headed, to which they reply, “West.”

It quickly becomes obvious that this is no ordinary couple, no ordinary car, and certainly no ordinary trip. The couple, only known as “The Mister”, and “The Missus”, respectively, are unusual. They appear old yet have surprising youth and stamina. They speak in odd languages at times and know things about Christopher with an unsettling accuracy. Yet, this doesn’t seem to alarm him. He seems to know that he is on a journey. Rather than questioning it in fear, he seems willing to ride along and see where the couple will take him.

Without revealing too much information, and thereby ruining the story for those who haven’t read the book, I will simply say that this is a novel that doesn’t shy away from some difficult themes. The author effectively paints a vivid mental image of the pain and consequences of sin. Without being overtly religious, the central message is the mercy and redemption of God. As Christopher faces his demons, figuratively and literally, he watches a transformation begin to emerge. Throughout it all, he has the sense that he is not alone, and Hope awaits just beyond the horizon.

This is a very quick read. I finished it within a couple of hours. There are seventeen chapters, all very short, and the text is large print. Upon finishing the book, I had to take some time to decide what I thought of the story. It was very engaging, from the opening page. The themes are heavy at times, but the elderly couple added a lightness that kept me from feeling too weighed down. The ending gave me a bit of a surprise, although I felt as if I had guessed bits of it. This would be an interesting book to read for a book club, because there are so many subtle aspects of the story that would make for a great discussion. I gave the book to my husband to read so that I have someone to dig through the content with me. I suppose that my final word is that this short novel is a thoughtful, poignant book that will have you thinking about it for days after you finish the last page. Pick it up and read for yourself.

-Product review by Laurie Gauger, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June, 2018