The Unfinished Gift
By: Dan Walsh
About the book:
Can a gift from the past mend a broken heart?
Ian Collins is an old man without his son. Patrick Collins is a young boy without his father. On his Christmas list are only three items. He wants the army to find his father. He wants to leave his grandfather’s house. And he wants the dusty wooden soldier in Grandfather’s attic – the one he is forbidden to touch.
It’s December 1943, and seven-year-old Patrick’s world had been rocked by the sudden death of his mother in a car accident. Sent to live with Ian Collins, the paternal grandfather he’s never even met, and who disowned Patrick’s father for his marriage and renewed faith in Christ – Patrick’s wishes are simple. He wants his father to come home and save him from his cold, unfeeling grandfather, and he wants the unfinished, hand carved wooden soldier hidden in his grandfather’s attic. The wooden soldier just happens to be a very painful reminder to Ian of the long standing rift between him & son. Ian has no intention of giving up that very tangible symbol of years of anger and bitterness, until unexpected truths are revealed and he may have a chance to restore his fractured family. But has his change of heart come too late to save a wounded little boy?
The Unfinished Gift is a sweet little story, especially heart-tugging this time of year, when families tend to be uppermost in one’s mind – those with us physically and those with us in spirit. This is the type of story that should definitely appeal to fans of Richard Paul Evans or even Nicholas Sparks’s at their heartwarming best. Gift is a nice, light diversion but personally, the message of reconciliation and forgiveness got just a bit overly didactic. Also, I had real trouble buying Patrick’s voice as that of a seven-year-old. He’s an adorable kid, but he comes off as way, way too mature for his age and too completely, well, perfect. By the time we meet him in the novel, his mother’s been dead just about a week – one week, and it felt like the narrative just barely scratched the surface of the pain and confusion that must surely be there, somewhere. However, as the impetus for facilitating reconciliation between father & son, Patrick’s character fits the bill perfectly.
Walsh does a commendable job evoking the setting of America during World War II. It’s a treat to read stories set in the homefront, especially ones like this that give you a real sense of the hardships war imposed on those left behind, waiting for and hoping loved ones would return safely from the conflict. That nostalgic sense of time and place is one of the novel’s greatest strengths. I think this story would make an ideal made-for-TV movie. The story is a great little reminder of the importance of faith and family. Though stylistically it’s a little too preachy for my tastes, Walsh does such a good job bringing the time period to life and introducing the Collins family that I want to check out the sequel – The Homecoming releases June 2010.