Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taking Lessons from Ernest - Review

Title: Taking Lessons From Ernest


Release Date: December, 2011

Format/Page Count: Paperback, 252 pages

Publisher: Writers Amuse Me Publishing

PurchasedDirectly from the publisher

Full Disclosure: Trish Stewart is a writer friend. Our paths first crossed at Absolute Write. We share a love of poetry, A Moveable Feast and writing style. I read a first draft of Taking Lessons from Ernest a few years back. This review is of a friend's book...but it is an honest non-biased review of a book I love.

His job is unfulfilling, his girlfriend controlling, his family has disowned him, and a loan shark is circling: Eric Bastien's life is a mess. Then, as a work day ends on a high, his love life hits the skids, and he gets the phone call from his estranged mother that changes everything. "Your father's dead." Life hands Eric a great opportunity, an awkward family reunion, and an ultimatum --  if he wants his inheritance, he has to take a road trip to see his father's old Army buddy, Oliver. For most, it would be no problem. Hop in the car, placate the family, get your money: no problem. Then again, you have not met Eric, have you? Armed with his father's journal and a first edition of Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, Eric decides to make amends to his family and get his life back on track. What he doesn't expect is to have Ernest Hemingway's ghost along for the ride. With intentions of helping Eric get it right, Hemingway manages to complicate the situation, resulting in an unforgettable road trip. Help comes in many forms. In this case, it is Hemingway's ghost who is determined to make Eric's first draft at life a good one. With any luck, he'll succeed before Eric loses a kneecap. (FROM PUBLISHER'S WEBSITE)

Expectation: Extremely high. I was dying to read this finished version of TLFE, ever since I read the amazing first draft!

Market/Genre: Adult/Literary


Taking Lessons from Ernest is one of those books you just want to read out loud. The first paragraph had me gushing with sentiment. I had to read it to my wife. Twice. “Listen to this! Just listen to this!” It’s that kind of book.

Trish Stewart has created the quintessential MEDIOCRITY KING in her main character, Eric Bastien. Eric bumbles through life, unable to cling to any significance whatsoever. From the onset of the story, I found myself rooting for him…but I still don’t know why I did. He is just one of those souls who slips through the cracks of life. He had no passion, no drive, no commitment.

Or maybe, just maybe, that’s what the author of TAKING LESSONS FROM ERNEST wants you to believe. Maybe the story is a journey back to the passion and commitment that LIFE burned out of Eric Bastien. Stewart shows Eric how to get back to his paused life through a wonderful journey filled with the ghost of Ernest Hemingway and the guidance of his own estranged father. And through that journey, the reader can also feel themselves growing. We walk hand in hand with Eric. We get angry when he takes a step backwards, and we revel in every step forward.

Taking Lessons from Ernest is a unique look into the dangerous slide into mediocrity that each and every one of us is capable of making…and a warning to prevent us from doing so.

When Eric’s father dies, Eric is sent on a road-trip to find Oliver Crowe. Crowe was an army buddy of Daniel’s…and has obviously greatly impacted his life. Crowe was larger than life…wonderful in every way. But life has a knack of finding those mythical characters from our youth and eating away at them, making them less. Eric is not impressed with what he finds at the end of the path to Oliver Crowe. But his real journey just begins there.

In life, Daniel was no longer speaking to his estranged son…but in death he has a well mapped plan for Eric. He can—with the help of a seemingly wild goose chase with the accompaniment of A MOVEABLE FEAST and his journals from his time in the army—give Eric a journey back to the self he left behind in the chaos that has become his life.

And us, lucky readers, are along for the ride. We see Eric discovering a kinder gentler father through reading his journals. We see him aching with adoration as he makes his way through Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and we see him itching to discover just what his father wanted him to learn through his pre-planned post-mortem intervention into his son’s life. But what we also see is Eric’s complete reluctance to succumb to the lessons. This is what we love…the struggle, the pull to refuse the light into his discombobulated life. We read on because we want him to melt, we want him to take the opportunity for growth that his dead father is giving him.

This is a story of redemption. Not only is it a strong story of personal growth, it’s also one of those novels you stumble across once in a long while where you want to quote these beautiful lines of wisdom. Stewart is a fine writer. Her poetic wisdom comes through in her narrative. I think we’ll be seeing more of her. Her melodic prose is the true gift of this novel…not to mention the lessons given to the reader through the solid plotline from mediocrity to…well, something better. Stewart’s love of Hemingway comes through in every word. Through the use of his ghost as Eric’s mentor along the journey, she does a huge honour to his memory. Here’s to Eric Bastien…and here’s to Trish Stewart.

Expectation was met in spades. This book makes me want to be a better person. Stewart definitely accomplished what she set out to do with this novel! Bravo.

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