Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Off topic: When I Found You book review

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde, published by Amazon Publishing

Ideally, the birth of a baby is a joyous event. Family members gather round to welcome the new addition to the group, support the young mother and renew family ties. Sometimes that’s what happens. In When I Found You, circumstances are far different. As other people find themselves involved with the lives this new baby touches, life unfolds in ways that are unexpected. Each finds ways to muddle through, some with more grace than others. For myself, it was a reminder that as John Lennon said, Life is What Happens When We Are Busy Making Other Plans.

The story jumps to life when Nathan McCann goes hunting one October morning in 1960 and his dog finds a baby instead. The crisis of being the one who saves this infant affects him profoundly. Although his concern isn’t welcomed initially, as the baby grows into a troubled adolescent, he becomes the family of last resort.

Willing to step into this life he didn’t seek but whose responsibility he accepts, he and the young man, who bears his name in recognition of their first day encounter, enter into a relationship. The fractured circumstances that led his mother to abandon him, and consign herself to a tragic death from infection after the lonely birth as she sat silent and uncomplaining in jail, plague his life. He grows up angry and resentful, unable to understand his family situation or rise above its limitations.

Nathan McCann’s patience and dedication to this unexpected family are beyond honorable. This whirlwind of energy and anger crashes into his life, a startling change from the chilly marriage that ended with his wife’s death some years before. Soon, Nat Bates crosses the legal line and is sent to juvenile detention, where the relationship develops as Nathan McCann makes regular, reliable visits over the years. When Nat Bates is released, he has a home to come to, with what passes for a relationship with an adult in his life.

Their lives play out, as Nat Bates finds inspiration in boxing and the two negotiate a path to his future. His childish judgment fails him when he volunteers for an unregulated fight. Without the rules he resists in his life, battling without protective gear, he’s permanently brain-injured.  Nathan McCann continues to find ways to care for his ward, until eventually their roles are reversed. Nat Bates returns the love he has received by caring for Nathan McCann during his final illness.

This is a wonderful tale of flawed people doing the best they can in the circumstances in which life leads them. The message that most impressed me was a story told by Nathan McCann to his second wife, who eventually leaves him over issues related to his relationship with Nat Bates.

“’My grandfather had two brothers,’ Nathan said… ‘My two great-uncles. Christopher and Daniel. They got along very well when they were younger. But then they tried to go into business together. And it didn’t go well. So they ended up feuding. And this was very hard for my grandfather, because he liked to have the whole family over for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Everybody thought it would be the hardest thing in the world to decide. But he had no trouble with it at all. He said, Christopher can come to Thanksgiving. Daniel will have to stay home. Just like that. Everyone was shocked. But I think I might have been the only one to ask why. He said it was because Christopher was willing to share the day with Daniel, but Daniel wasn’t willing to share the day with Christopher.’”

That’s the over-riding principle: Being willing to share goodwill with others. Finding a way to create enough goodwill and extend it to others, leaving aside whether they are deserving or not.  We all find ourselves in those positions, sometimes being blessed to extend love and sometimes being the one in need of love. I value this book for showing how we all have our moments, and how carefully and thoughtfully each of us deserves to be treated.

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