I took a detour from my usual reading genres to take a trip through the baseball field. One of the main activities in my house when my children were growing up was watching baseball, playing baseball, reading about baseball, studying baseball,. . . well, you get the picture. My son grew up eating and breathing baseball. From the time he could hold a ball, he was always throwing. My son had incredible control and aim. One of our favorite family lore stories is when my son was barely walking, we visited a friend. The friend had a son four months younger than mine, and the son had a duck with a wooden egg that twirled on the wheels of the duck. My son picked up the egg and threw it to the other baby, hitting him square in the forehead, giving him a significant pump knot. I haven't encountered Jake Smith's writing in my reading forays, but he does write a good story. He has done his research well, and he uses his research to enrich his novel. He has true talent in telling a tale. James McConnell is the assistant high school baseball coach and is married with two children whom he loves more than life. When the news comes that his son's leukemia has returned, he is more than devastated. With Aaron in the hospital near Detroit, James and the rest of the family move into Aaron's hospital room for the duration of Aaron's treatments. Curt Howard of the Detroit Tigers comes to visit Aaron and brings him several Tiger souvenirs. He tells Aaron if there is anything else he wants to let him know. Aaron asks Curt to lean down because he wants to ask something but he doesn't want to say it out loud. After whispering with Curt a few minutes, Aaron goes to sleep and Curt promises to get them tickets to a game. Aaron stays close mouthed about his wish, wanting to surprise his family. For me to tell much more of the story would be to spoil it for anyone else who wants to read it. Jake makes the transitions between the elements of the story so smoothly, he keeps the reader engaged and makes the book very hard to put down. The emotions are real and palpable, the characters are believable and sympathetic, and I was thorougly enthralled with the book so much that I stayed up waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay past my bedtime two nights in a row to read it. Five Stars, Two Thumbs Up, and a signed baseball for your collection. This book was provided to me for my honest review by Tyndale House Publishers. No remuneration was offered or taken for my opinions.
“Would you rather spend that time sitting next to him watching ball games with him on TV? Or would you rather make his dying wish come true and be on that TV, playing for him?” Emily asks James in Jake Smith’s his book, "Wish." This three hundred and twenty page paperback targets those that like realistic, emotional fiction involving debilitating diseases such as lymphoblastic leukemia and how they affect a family, especially in regard to a young child. With no profanity, there is minor slang. The heart-wrenching topic of illness and possible death may not be apropos for naÃ¯ve readers. In this touching tome, quick-tempered James McConnell and his wife have spent the last four years helping their nine year old son, Aaron, get his leukemia into remission. Being healthy the last five months, Aaron has a keen obsession knowing all national baseball players’ statistics, rules, and nuances. Although he has never played the sport, he idolizes his father who was a college athlete with a good batting average. When the illness takes a turn for the worse, James and his wife rush the child to the same hospital for testing, only to learn the cancer has returned. The boy is transported to a state-of-the-art hospital for more evasive treatment with the hope of a bone marrow transplant. While at the medical facility, Aaron meets Curt Howard, the short-stop for the boy’s favorite team, the Detroit Tigers. Howard willingly grants the sick boy a dying wish: to let his father play in one professional major league game. Told mainly from the father’s emotional roller-coaster perspective, James agrees to attempt playing, starting in the minor leagues as he works his way up to the professional team. With his heart by his son’s bedside during treatment, the father’s mind is torn between his loyalties to family versus his love of the game. Praying to God for a bone marrow match, the family vacillates from hope of Arron becoming a patient or a survivor. As James’s wife encourages him to give his all to playing the game, he tries to focus on being in the zone. Written with emotion, Smith creates believable characters that would do anything to save a loved one. After finishing the last page, readers will want to provide simple cheek swabs to be listed in a bone marrow registry to save lives. Thanks to The Book Club Network Inc. for furnishing this book in exchange for a review based on the reader’s opinions.
Smith weaves emotional tension into this spiritual story of leukemia and baseball.
A nine-year-old boy suffering from leukemia makes a selfless wish that challenges his father, in Jake Smith’s moving Wish. Their shared love of baseball adds depth to the father-son relationship.
Smith introduces his first work of fiction with the dramatic moment when James McConnell learns that his son, Aaron, first diagnosed with cancer at age five, is again critically ill. James and his wife, Emily, had dared to believe that Aaron’s five months of complete remission would continue indefinitely. Instead, Aaron, his parents, and his six-year-old sister, Elizabeth, move into a family suite at a pediatric cancer research hospital in southern central Michigan, where he faces more aggressive treatment.
The family’s emotional tension about Aaron’s illness looms large in this story. When James and Emily meet with Aaron’s new oncologist, Dr. Barna, to discuss his chances for recovery, the doctor tells them that finding a bone marrow donor match for the boy’s rare tissue type is the best chance for his long-term survival. “Define long-term,” Emily responds, wanting the most definitive prognosis the doctor can’t give.
An effective use of analogy heightens the book’s poignant message. For example, when Aaron begins to improve, the family attends a Detroit Tigers home game. James, who abandoned his dream of playing professional baseball to marry Emily, shares with Aaron the thrill of walking onto an major-league field before the game starts. A religious man, James describes the space as a “cathedral” and compares the middle of the field to a “sanctuary.” Smith writes, “He felt so small, so insignificant, and everything around him seemed so holy.”
Smith convincingly shows Emily and James’s devotion to each other and their children.
A revealing moment occurs just as the family prepares to leave the hospital after Aaron’s
treatment has ended. Concerned about Aaron’s lack of enthusiasm for feeling better and going home, James reminds his son that he is a cancer survivor. His son replies, “No, Dad, that’s just it. I’m not a survivor. I’m just surviving.”
Smith’s competent prose style and flawless editing reflect his professional experience as a magazine editor and author of nonfiction articles and books. A well-researched story, Wish offers an insightful look into the perils of childhood leukemia. While the focus on baseball may not interest some readers, this story of a family struggling to overcome their son’s devastating illness holds universal appeal.