Review By Don Sloan
Max Kristoff is the epitome of Big Apple coolness. Dressed in his carefully ironed white dress shirt and his Jordan 5 sneakers, he cruises the mean streets in search of love, life and Bibby McWilliams.
This is one of the most unique stories you’ll ever read, punctuated and brimming as it is with artfully expressed Millenial repartee on every page and luxuriously loaded with lyrical one-liners, such as:
“Love can be such a powerful but mysterious entity. With a whisper it can shift the sands and move the planets.”
“So I become a ghost, a specter in the moonlight.”
“Stalwart as a Silverback Gorilla.”
Max is a bit of a poet, trapped in the body of a meatball shop line cook. He delights daily in driving his vintage 1979 Monte Carlo through New York’s steel-and-glass canyons, and everything would just be perfect, except for the secret he harbors underneath his outward extroversion.
Max has terminal cancer.
It riddles his young body from top to bottom. But, after giving up a promising pitching career with the Yankees because of overwhelming treatment regimens and chemotherapy, he decides to forego any further medical intervention and just live his remaining days in a cocoon of normalcy.
Which brings us back to Bibby McWilliams, a childhood friend with whom Max desperately wants to reestablish contact before he dies.
Theirs is a flawed relationship, fraught with emotional baggage and feelings of betrayal. The rift stems from a woman they both loved and lost in a tragic accident. Bibby has never gotten over it, and his feelings for Karol will always color the stuttering bromance he has with Max.
Meanwhile, Celeste, a nurse who attended Max during a recent hospital stay, is trying desperately to keep Max from sinking into despair and self-imposed hermitage. She knows about his terminal condition and just wants to be there for him.
The story goes on to detail Celeste’s complicated family tethers, and her ties with the famous St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis. The institution also has a galvanizing effect on Max, who has an epiphany while touring the wards of children who, like him, do not have long to live.
Does Max finally renew his friendship with Bibby McWilliams? Can Celeste’s love pull him back from the brink of resignation? And, finally, is there a miraculous cure for Max — a revelatory rainbow at the end of this remarkable piece of fiction?
Download Never a Choice But Always a Gift and find out for yourself. The writing style is certainly unconventional, unstructured in the extreme, and carries forward with the raw energy of the generation it represents, often cloaked as it is in angst and disjointed discourse.
But it is never dull, and often soars far above its streetwise dialogue to deliver a powerful and thought-provoking message about the fragility of life and the enduring importance of family and friends.
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