I had heard a lot about Cecilia Ahern and her extraordinary debut novel, 'P.S - I Love you', which narrates the story of a husband who deeply loves his wife. However, he suffers from a terminal illness and knowing he would die soon, he decides to write a set of 10 letters, all addressed to his wife and which is revealed to her, only after he has passed away. He does this to encourage her cope with a life without him, rediscover herself and move on in life happily. After several references, I decided to note it down in my mental list of ‘MUST READS.’
But somehow when I went to the nearest crossword store to pick up books for myself – which were actually meant as a birthday gift from a dear friend, one of the books that I picked up was ‘THE GIFT’ instead of the title noted down by me from the same author. And my writing about it here is a testimonial to the fact that I have not 'missed' not reading ‘P.S. – I love you.’ (On probing a little deeper I found– I did not pick it up maybe because I knew the ending - a huge spoiler for me).
Anyways, what is so enchanting and touching about 'The Gift' is that most of us can relate to the story whole heartedly and agree with the author completely. We can identify the character of Lou Suffren as someone we know or interact with, in our own lives. The main protagonist, Lou Suffren is an extremely successful man, He has everything one could wish for in this world. But he has not had enough and continuously keeps wishing to be at two places at the same time in order to be able to reach higher than he already is. He is thus constantly battling with time.
Lou is willing to sacrifice anything for his work - even spoil his father’s 70th birthday party that the family has been looking forward to and planning for elaborately, just because he has an official Christmas dinner party on the same day that he absolutely must attend and show his face around. His family suffers silently. And then one day, walks in Gabe into Lou’s life, a homeless man, who Lou thinks can be useful around his office for him. But soon he realizes that Gabe is actually an impediment to his growth. And in fact, he is even quite mysterious. He always manages to beat Lou at his own ‘race against the clock’ run. Also, unlike him, every one seems to adore him. And then starts the actual game with Lou determining to beat the clock and Gabe both. The author manages to keep the cards tightly close to her chest till the last few pages.
Finally, she discloses that the story is not so much about Lou Suffren as it is about each one of us. It is about the tick tocking of the clock that we see but neither feel nor give it, the due importance it should be given. Time comes and time goes. We move on. From one moment to next without realizing that the moment that has left us can never be bought or recovered ever or by any means.
It is time we never have enough. It is time that is the most precious. More precious than any riches of the world. Once the time is up, no matter what you do….you have to bid adieu to the world, to your loved ones and most of all to your own life. And so to just ignore time or spend it on running from one important meeting to another profitable business deal at the cost of ignoring one's own life is a pity.
The beautiful author has also managed to keep the readers wondering and alternating between their own theories of ‘this –might- happen next or no...no ‘she is aiming for that’, till the very end. Of course, we are proved wrong by her each time. Her style of storytelling (or rather writing), reminded me of my own childhood, when we (my cousins, my brother and I), would listen to my maternal uncle with rapt attention, without batting an eyelid, holding our breath as to what would happen next. And whatever came next managed to keep us irritatingly restless, doubly intrigued, and undoubtedly feeling incomplete. All we wanted was for him to just go on and on till he could show us the light at the end of the dark mysterious tunnel. Celia Ahern, I must thank you for this ‘Gift’ you shared with us.
I conclude with the beautiful quote with which the author ended her book –
‘Time can’t be given. But it can be shared.’