Sometimes our best is not good enough. We make mistakes. The most painful ones are those that harm a loved one. Stress and grief leave us in agony, and we play our choice repeatedly wondering if we made the right decision. We cannot let ourselves off the hook either merely because we are human.
In Joan Schweighardt’s Gifts for the Dead, Irishman Jack Hopper arrives home barely alive and without his brother. What could he have done differently? Guilt-ridden, he needs time to sort through the events in South America’s jungle. In the meantime, his mother and his brother’s sweetheart, Nora, nurse him back to health. They wait patiently to learn specifics of Bax, Jack’s brother. To make matters worse, Nora eased Jack’s pain and he liked it. He had always secretly cared for her more than he should have. As time passes and Jack heals, and the two grow closer until they take a trip to South America where Nora then learns the truth.
Schweighardt is masterful at historical fiction and Gifts for the Dead is an example of her skill. Not only does she entertain with accounts that examine the perplexities of being human with its heartening moments and struggles, but she also inspires thoughts about the human condition.
How does one justify bad choices simply because they are human? Why can we not be better than that, and what about the good that comes from bad choices as a result? Will Jack Hopper find that good thing?
Gifts for the Dead is a thoughtful and entertaining read, especially for those who enjoy historical adventure mixed with suspense and a little romance. A wild escapade that thoroughly entertains.
Review by Christina Francine
Christina Francine is an enthusiastic author of a variety of work for all ages. When not weaving tales, she teaches academic writing at the college level. She’s also a licensed elementary teacher. Picture books: Special Memory and Mr. Inker. Academic: Journal of Literacy Innovation.