Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The Final Farewell by Patricia Wiles
Review======Title: The Final FarewellAuthor: Patricia Wiles Publisher: Covenant CommunicationsGenre: Fiction / YouthYear Published: 2007Number of Pages: 246Binding: Soft coverISBN: 978-1-59811-353-2Price: $7.95Reviewed by Rob FiciurBefore beginning this book review, I must admit to a personal prejudice. As the father of five sons I often felt disappointed that there wasn’t more available in the LDS market that boys would read. Having taught school for 19 years, I believe that a well written fiction novel can teach truths and concepts in a way that an article or talk cannot.The highest compliment I can give "The Final Farewell" is that I gave the book to my sixteen year old son at 2:00 pm on Sunday and before the day was over he came upstairs and tried to tell me all about the book. I had to stop him. “Don’t tell me all about the book – I want to read it!” I covered my ears. He stopped long enough for me to uncover my ears before he continued to tell me the things that happened to Kevin Kirk in the last of the four book series, "The Kevin Kirk Chronicles."In the previous three novels we follow the school years of young Kevin Kirk. Kevin’s parents own a funeral home. Part way through the first book, Kevin finds out that his parents were once baptized into the LDS church. Through the next two books Kevin’s parents become reactivated as Kevin deals with the issues many youth do growing up."The Final Frontier" begins as Kevin and his friends enter their Senior year of High School. In the first chapter, Kevin’s good friend Melonhead moved away – promising to stay in touch as he prepared to go on a mission. That left Kevin and Dani Carter (the Branch President’s daughter) as the only seminary students in the branch (and the High School).Dani, who had always been the one encouraging Kevin to take his religion more seriously, began to cut corners. She was in love with Hunter Rockwell, one of the school’s football stars. Dani did anything she could to be with Hunter. She began sneaking off to inappropriate parties and dressing immodestly. When confronted with these issues, Dani dismissed Kevin’s concerns -- she just wanted to fit in. When Dani attended seminary she was more preoccupied with her finger nails than the lesson. Before the year was over, Dani had quit going to seminary and church.Kevin faced different challenges than Dani. One of Kevin’s former teachers put through the necessary paper work for Kevin to get a four year university scholarship. Kevin now faced the same question every 18 year old young man does – do I go on a mission or not?The book deals with real issues that teens face through their school years. At one point Kevin decided that since the scholarship came without any effort on his part, it must have been the will of the Lord that he go to school and not on a mission. Only after a deep personal struggle did Kevin gain a conviction that he should go on a mission.Dani’s choice of friends leads to consequences she did not expect. She changed her standards. Dani later apologized to Kevin for her rudeness to him as she focused only on her new friends.We are often told that it takes a village to raise a child. In this book, Kevin’s village encouraged him to find his answers. Brother Conrad and his wife took Kevin fishing one last time. This retired brother knew Kevin well enough through the years that he could speak plainly without offending the struggling teen. After Kevin explained his confusion about going on a mission, Brother Conrad said, “It doesn’t make sense because you don’t want it to.” “Saul was afraid of the truth…The truth is lapping at your feet boy. And you’re scared to death of what will happen if you let yourself get pulled into it.” Brother Conrad was there for Kevin and touched him the way members of our ward family can reach our children.Missionary work was a theme throughout the book. As Kevin was pondering whether or not to go on a mission – he went with the full time missionaries to visit an elderly woman. Though this lady was the least likely candidate for conversion, her heart was touched. When Kevin flew to Salt Lake on route to the MTC, he got lost in the airport. When another missionary found him, that Elder turned out to be Chuck Stiller, the bully who regularly beat Kevin in Book #1. Situations change – the one least likely to listen to the discussions was now going out to teach them.Through the book Kevin and his friends experience the trials that real High School students face. As a parent I was grateful that my son could “experience” Kevin’s trials through this book – and gain from his experiences – knowing that some day my sixteen year old will be eighteen, facing his own trials and challenges as he makes his Final Farewell to the High School scene.