Steve O'Brien,
Elijah's Coin
(A&N, 2009)

A young man named Tom is on the brink of starting a self-destructive path. A year before the story begins, 17-year-old Tom came home to find his mother murdered. Now, he feels empty and has decided to seek excitement by robbing a sporting goods store. Little does he know that choice will begin a series of choices that will turn his life around.

Tom believed there was no night watchman at the sporting goods store. You can imagine his surprise when a night watchman, Elijah King, confronts him once he has broken in. Elijah presents as soft-spoken but with an air of command and quiet self-confidence. He offers Tom an unusual choice: be turned in to the police, or temporarily surrender his driver's license, which he can regain if Tom returns for three nights to listen to what Elijah has to teach him. Tom chooses the second option. When Tom goes for the last visit, Elijah has him thinking and ready to change -- but Elijah cannot be found.

This book is divided into two sections. In part one, we learn of Tom meeting Elijah, the early lessons Tom learned and Tom's quest to find Elijah and solve the mystery behind this powerful man. In part two, we see what Tom does with what he has learned, and where it leads him.

This short book moves along quickly and has a big and memorable story packed into it. The writing is crisp and technically clean. The characters are interesting, and Tom and Elijah come off as credible and developed.

If you view the story as fictionalized real life, there are definite credibility issues. The book, I believe, is aimed at communicating a philosophy of life and the meanings of success. If you view it as more of a parable, then it works extremely well. Viewed this way, it comes close to my favorite book, Blue Road to Atlantis by Jay Nussbaum. Elijah's Coin, like Blue Road to Atlantis, will leave you thinking and reflecting on what you value in life. Both accomplish this without being overtly preachy, although Blue Road is more subtle than Elijah's Coin.

The 125 pages of Elijah's Coin are well worth your money and time. I see myself rereading this book and sharing it with others. We can all use opportunities to reflect on what we value and why, and this little book accomplishes that very nicely.

book review by
Chris McCallister

9 April 2011

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