Richard Paul Evans’s newest novel tells the story of a man who makes a living by "spying" on employees who are stealing from the company he works for, and a boy he meets during one of his many business trips. He’s good at what he does despite his medical condition.
Nathan Hurst has Tourette's Syndrome, which causes a person to have facial ticks, uncontrollable body movements and other related symptoms that will often surprise or shock those who are not familiar with the disease. (Richard Paul Evans has Tourette’s and uses his own experiences to model Nathan’s symptoms.) While the book is not about Tourette’s per se, it’s important to know that the main character suffers from it because this comes into play later as the story progresses.
Nathan is the narrator, and in the first chapter he talks not only about Tourette’s but also about an event he alludes to that occurred when he was only eight years old. It's an event that changed his life, destroying his family and alienating him from his mother for the rest of his life. It is also a weight he carries on his shoulders and has helped shape him into the person he is today.
During a routine "arrest" at one of the stores, Nathan encounters a woman who is caught stealing. She confesses that she actually brought back the goods, feeling awful about it, but stole the items in the first place because she needed the money. She is in an abusive marriage (the evidence is all over her body) and trying to get away from her husband. Because she has brought everything back, Nathan does not report her and lets her go out of the goodness of his heart. His job dictates that he arrest her, but he sees that she needs his help. Nathan is reprimanded for being lenient with the employee but explains that he has good reason. So his boss decides not to write him up for this indiscretion.
Back at the airport, as he waits for his flight home to be announced, Nathan meets a woman with two small children. Her son is obviously ill. When they learn that the flight has been canceled due to a winter storm, the mother becomes distraught because she has no place to put her children for the night. Nathan has a room already booked courtesy of his office, and he kindly offers it to her. At first she declines but then accepts hesitantly. It is the start of a relationship that will turn Nathan's life around and ultimately teach him a lesson in unselfish love and forgiveness, a lesson that comes from the little boy who is terminally ill. What this child does for people --- most of them strangers --- is the focus of the remainder of the story.
I don't want to give away too much, but I can say that THE GIFT is about miracles and the power of love. One has to suspend disbelief to truly enjoy the book, and while I'm not a believer in miracles, I did "buy" into the theme and found the ending an emotional experience. A box of tissues may be necessary before reaching the last page, so be prepared!
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton on October 9, 2007