The Traveler's Gift

By Susana Fletcher

Remember in high school when each of us got “the speech” from our favorite teacher? You know the one: “You’ve got so much potential,” they’d plead. “If only you’d just apply yourself.” We’d inevitably roll our eyes, as teens do, and exit with coolness intact. But somehow the thin lecture reverberated, and we pushed forward toward betterment.

“The Traveler’s Gift,” an inspirational novel by motivational speaker Andy Andrews, has the same effect. The book’s simple narration and Sunday school advice doesn’t fail to tug at a few heartstrings.

Protagonist David Ponder is a man at his end. After being laid off from his corporate executive position and having no financial independence to show for it, he learns that his daughter needs surgery. He can’t afford it, and has nowhere to turn.

A predictable turn of events takes Ponder on a soul-seeking journey though time, where each encounter with a dead famous person generates a piece of advice. From King Solomon to Christopher Columbus, they bestow affirmations. “My destiny is assured,” Columbus passes along from behind the helm of the Santa Maria. “I have a decided heart.” Harry Truman gives the famous, “The buck stops here,” adding, “I am responsible for my success.”

Andrew’s narration is simple and rosy, reminiscent of Andy Taylor’s patient parables with Opie. The diversity of voice is thin, leaving Anne Frank and Abe Lincoln with virtually the same narrative inflections. None of the characters, as they read, has more or less humor than the next. Or grit. Or insight. The individual chapters would make great fodder for a daily inspirational calendar or the like, but as a novel they fall flat. One clear message, though, seems to penetrate unscathed through the layers: Be better.

Through rolling eyes I read “A Traveler’s Gift.” But just as a teenager, before I dared to leave my homework undone yet again, I let the message resonate, and decided to take Andrew’s advice anyway. Following Anne Frank’s, “I will greet this day with a forgiving spirit,” I forgave Andrews his lack of eloquence and originality, and let the good advice sink beneath the rebellious layers. If Andrews ever finds himself unemployed as did his character in “Traveler’s Gift”, I’m sure he’d make a fine guidance counselor.

THE TRAVELER’S GIFT: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success
By Andy Andrews
224 pp. Thomas Nelson. $19.99.

The Traveler's Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success

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