Monday, November 5, 2012

Twelve Months by Steven Manchester

Twelve MonthsTitle: Twelve Months
Author:  Steven Manchester
Publisher: The Story Plant
Published: August 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 324 Pages
Source: Received from the author
in exchange for an honest review
Read: October 30-31 
In A Few Words:  Poignant, powerful, emotional
My Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
Don DiMarco has a very good life – a family he loves, a comfortable lifestyle, passions and interests that keep him amused. He also thought he had time, but that turned out not to be the case. Faced with news that might have immediately felled most, Don now wonders if he has time enough. Time enough to show his wife the romance he didn’t always lavish on her. Time enough to live out his most ambitious fantasies. Time enough to close the circle on some of his most aching unresolved relationships. Summoning an inner strength he barely realized he possessed, Don sets off to prove that twelve months is time enough to live a life in full.

A glorious celebration of each and every moment that we’re given here on Earth, as well as the eternal bonds that we all share, TWELVE MONTHS is a stirring testament to the power of the human spirit

Melissa's Musings:

I don't quite know where to start with this book. I have so many thoughts and feelings surrounding this book that it's hard to quite articulate the complexity of them all. I really wish I had read this sooner instead of having it sit on my shelves for so long. Some of you might remember that Steven Manchester stopped by to do an interview a few months ago. You can check out that interview HERE

The book starts off with a very easy, familiar type of flow. The easygoing style makes it  simple to connect with the main character, Don Dimarco. He has an easygoing, kind personality that makes it easy to like him. When he gets the news that he has terminal cancer, he is shocked, yes, but after the initial shock he takes it in stride and really starts to live, and embrace life.

A lot of times it takes events like the news of cancer to shake someone out of their stupor and really start to live. The same is true here, and Don goes on many adventures, and manages to fulfill many lifelong dreams along the way. These  include  herding cattle, racing, and going on a second honeymoon with his wife Bella.

Many of the scenes between Don and his wife Bella are  my favorite. They are tender, gentle, and true. You can tell from the way they interact, and from Don's internal monologues just how much they love each other and how much they are willing to do to show each other.

Don realizes that his time to lavish his wife with romance, and most importantly, to make happy memories, is limited, so he tries to include her in many of these adventures that he wants to accomplish. He also focuses on her specifically, and tries to cook her a thoughtful dinner. While the cooking itself doesn't go well, the thought behind it is lovely, and Bella appreciates the effort more than the meal itself. 

Don also comes up with an elaborate plan to propose to Bella again. This dinner goes off without a hitch and they do end up having a nice ceremony. I wish that there had been more description of the second wedding, since it was such a nice gesture, but they kept it pretty simple.

Bella is very calm throughout the whole process. We don't see a great deal of the story from her perspective, but from what we do see, it's apparent that she loves Don very much and would do anything for him. While she does take time to grieve with him, she's also one of his biggest cheerleaders, fully supporting and encouraging him to get his list of goals completed.

Despite the cancer, and the effects it has on him, Don manages to make peace with many things in his life. He  makes peace with the memories of the time he spent in Vietnam, with an old friend with whom he had a falling out,  and with the fact that he won't be around for as long as he would like. He also does a lot of good with the time he has left. Even when he is not feeling so well himself, he volunteers his time to other cancer patients, children, to share with them, to let them know they are not alone. There is one particular patient, Sophia, who he bonds with quickly. Although the scenes between them are brief, they are powerful. Sophia is wise beyond her years, and is a force of goodness for Don just as much as he is one for her.

Books like this one could be told from a negative, or downtrodden perspective, but this book remains positive, and enlightened throughout. Don could have dwelt in sorrow,and pain, but he chose not to. I have to say that is one thing I found surprising is that the anger stage of his grieving process didn't appear to be all that strong. He mentioned that he went into a funk and he needed space, but didn't really express much anger at his situation.

One of my other favorites about this book is the small details that are included. There's a spot on page 41 where Don starts talking about puzzles and how much he enjoys them. The puzzles play a significant role throughout. Don works on them with his grandkids while he imparts stories and life lessons as they put it together. I won't say how, but the puzzle plays a significant role at the end of the book.

One thing that I want to mention just as something I noticed, is that there is a spiritual element to this book as Don does pray at times, and they do go to church. Some books can be overly "preachy" and be too involved in the religious/spiritual aspect, but I'm happy to say that is not the case here. The spirituality is just an added detail that comes up naturally and balances out the story nicely.

I have to warn anyone who is easily prone to crying at books that tug at your heartstrings, be sure to have a box of tissues handy for this one. I cried my way through I would say,  at least the last 50 pages or so of the novel. Although you are prepared for it, the emotional events of this book are so strong that it's impossible (or it was for me anyway) not to cry. And the wonderful thing is, although I was crying, there were still moments where I was laughing as I cried.

To me, that is a sign of excellent writing. If you can cry your eyes out because you feel so attached to the character, and yet still be able to laugh, the author definitely knows what they're doing. This book is about not taking life for granted, because you never know when you may run out of time. It teaches you to enjoy each moment, to make peace with old demons, to not be afraid to conquer your fears, no matter what your age. The small details, the intimacy between the characters, the weaving of the past with the present, the life lessons are all wonderful parts in their own right, and they combine to form a beautiful, heartwarming, novel.

I am so glad to have read this. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a heartfelt story.


kimbacaffeinate said...

O.o this requires lots of chocolate and tissues. Lovely review. I would have to send my husband and son away, to read this. The last one I read like this I cried so hard..they were afraid to come near me.

Melissas Midnight Musings said...

A lot of times my sister will come and chat at various times at night just to take a break from the computer or whatnot, and I kept thinking to myself, "please don't come in here and walk in on me crying over this book. LOL