Lost December by Richard Paul Evans

Dec 15, 2012

When I was a music major, it was considered good taste to turn up your nose at almost all New Age composers and performers (as well as a host of other not-so-classical genres). One of the composers I remember getting a particularly bad rap was Jon Schmidt. (If you're not Mormon, you may or may not know who Jon Schmidt even is, although he has become more popular and well-known in the last five years or so since launching The Piano Guys--which I adore, btw). Anyway, I can distinctly remember hearing the rippling cadences of "Waterfall" being plunked out rather badly by some amateur pianist, and all of the music majors rolling their eyes at each other in disgust. But the truth was, under all that eye rolling, we kind of liked to let loose on a Jon Schmidt piece or two ourselves, when no one was listening, that is.

Sometimes I kind of feel like Richard Paul Evans is like a New Age composer. Those of us who pride ourselves on being "readers" turn up our nose at such books because we definitely have better taste than the people picking up the latest NYT bestseller at Costco. I know I've been at my book club before when we've been discussing what to read next and someone (maybe even me) smirkingly suggests, "How about Richard Paul Evans latest?" which is then met by a series of groans and yeah-right laughs. But then, what's that tucked under the magazines on the nightstand? Um, yeah, that's what I thought.

So maybe this is all just personal confession and not really general observation, but every Christmas, I like to read at least one book by Richard Paul Evans. They're usually sappy and on the predictable side, and not always particularly memorable come January, but they're an easy and fun story to get lost in.

Lost December is a modern spin on the biblical parable of the prodigal son. Luke is the son of a wealthy businessman,who is the founder and CEO of a large chain of copy centers. Luke and his father work really well together, and it is assumed that Luke will eventually take over the company. First though, his father wants him to get a good education so he can decide for himself if this company is really what he wants. While he is away at school, Luke becomes friends with a wild and free crowd, and when he graduates he decides he'd rather take his trust fund and "really live" instead of get tied down to a family company. In the process, Luke sees who his real friends are and learns that his father's love will never waver.

For the most part, Evans took the basic structure of the prodigal son story and just cast it in a modern light (right down to Luke eventually losing every penny and living on the streets without any of his former identity). The only element that is really missing is that of the prodigal's older brother. One of the reasons this parable in the Bible is so wonderful is it can be looked at and applied from several different angles (the father, the older son, the younger son). Each time you read it, you can think, Who am I in this story? What do I need to change about myself? But this modern retelling is just a story. Sure, it can still give you pause to think about your own life. But the main purpose is just to entertain. And so, it is Luke's story. And that's why I wasn't bothered by Luke being an only child. If there had been an older brother, he might have encroached on the story too much, adding another dimension that really wasn't supposed to be there. So I thought it was wise of Evans not to try to include him.

The story is predictable, especially since it's based on an ancient text: you know Luke's going to get in with the wrong kind of friends; you know he's going to squander his money and then be left alone; you know the distant and abrasive girl in the copy center is going to be someone special (oh wait, I guess that's not in the scriptures, but it's still obvious, nonetheless); and you know his father will welcome him home with tears and open arms. Despite this predictability though, the story was not boring or tedious. Sometimes it's nice not to have any major jolts or turns in the road but instead be able to see the path clearly and enjoy the story for what it plainly is.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was what I wanted it to be. There are popular authors that drive me crazy, but Richard Paul Evans is not one of them. The only book of his I haven't liked is, ironically, The Christmas Box. (I'm still not sure why that one was the launchpad for his career.) That said, I probably won't read Lost December again. As long as Evans keeps writing, there will be another one just like it next year.

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