The 1930s were a decade of enormous uncertainty--for the world, for America, and in particular for one lonely, struggling mother and her disabled son. Their story is one of love and enormous sacrifices in the face of circumstances horrendous beyond belief. When her husband leaves her for someone whose time isn't wrapped up in a silent, handicapped kid, Mary and little Jack are out on their own in a world that has no room for the poor and disabled. Especially not at a time when most Americans are simply trying to survive their economic woes and job losses. But then arrives The Gift...where has it come from, and why? How can a young boy who can neither hear nor speak provide comfort, direction, and sometimes challenges to seekers who learn of the special ability? Whatever the source, its presence brings a single shaft of light and hope to Mary and her beloved Jack. Will it be enough?
If you're in the mood for a book that has a moving story and will touch your heart while you read, this is the book for you. Once you start reading, you'll feel connected to Mary and her son Jack who steals your heart almost immediately. The book takes place in the 1930s and shows how difficult life was back then if you were poor and had a handicap that made you different from everyone. The relationship between Mary and Jack is very deep and the love that Mary has for her son is very strong. Jack's gift for a time brings them hope and financial security but at the same time it questions Mary's faith and makes her become wary of everyone she meets.
What I really liked best about this book was that this wasn't a happy go lucky, everything ends up alright story. From the beginning, you can tell that Mary and Jack have things rough. With every turn of the story things get even worse for them. Even at the end of the story, even though they do eventually get help, there is no making up for the past. I think the biggest evidence of this is the actions of Mary's husband and Jack's father, Jerry. He's just the bad guy from the start and treats his family with disdain and disgust. Throughout the story, his character shows no signs of repentance. I was so glad at the end of the story that he ends up divorcing Mary instead of having a conversion scene where she's forced to forgive and forget everything he's done to make their lives miserable. Now divorce is something that can be a taboo topic in Christian fiction, but I believe in this scenario it can be justified.
The only qualm I had about the book was that I felt that Jack's gift is never really explained. I understand how it's shown as a gift from God, but I guess I'm the sort of person who likes there to be explanations. I also wondered, if Jack is the narrator of the story and is able to tell us what happened later on in his story at the end of the book, how did he learn to fully communicate with others? He has either learned how to read and write, talk or sign. I guess this was just a loose end I wish had been tied up.
Overall I really enjoyed reading this book. The story is written in a easy to read manner that will keep you turning the pages. Even with the Gift aspect, it's a very realistic story and I believe the historical details to be accurate and not misleading. The scenes in the asylum are heartbreaking as to how the patients at the time were treated and viewed. It makes one grateful to be able to appreciate how well off people of today are who have the same kind of problems. If you are a fan of historical fiction in the style of Tracie Peterson, you'll really enjoy this book and I would love to see Michael Landon Jr. turn this into a movie one day!
The Silent Gift by Michael Landon Jr and Cindy Kelley is published by Bethany House (2009)
This review copy was provided by the publisher