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The Pendulum's Path

Author: Dave Shields
Genre: Mainstream
Reviewed by: Elizabeth K. Burton

535Tom Lewis’s contented, mundane existence suffers a shattering blow when a long-held family secret is exposed. Everything he has believed about himself no longer applies, and to no surprise the discovery leads him to a serious crisis of identity. To regain his sense of who he is, Tom embarks on a trek through the past and present, looking for the threads he will be able to weave into a new life.

How we define ourselves influences how we interact with others and what directions we take when choosing where we will journey in life. In Mr. Shields’s excellent and compelling first novel, his protagonist’s discovery destabilizes his entire definition of who he is. The author avoids the obvious: Tom Lewis is no drama king who dives headlong into an abyss of despair. Rather, he is a man any reader can identify with as he juggles responsibilities that seem to multiply just when he is least in a position to deal with them.

It is this proliferation of crises that is the main driving force behind his story, and it works beautifully. The pacing and the reader’s involvement with the character are so strong it is all but impossible to put the book down. Each event arises naturally from the groundwork Mr. Shields has made in the beginning, so there is never any sense of a conflict’s being contrived or a reaction’s being unmotivated.

All of the characters have that deep, vibrant humanity that arouses a sense of recognition—we know these people, or wish we did.

All this leads to an ending that grabs the reader by the throat and dares one to stop before the final resolution. The unspoken message is that even the worst possible life events can have meaning, depending on the choices we make when coping with them. Tom Lewis’s response to his crisis is composed of equal parts confrontation and acceptance—a balanced reaction that is sharply reflected in the book’s climax.

Dave Shields has written an emotionally rich book that proves coming- of-age is not an adolescent phenomenon, and does it with charm and optimism that is often lacking in a time when cynicism too often prevails.

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May 12, 2004 in Mainstream | Permalink

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