Ruetz’s debut is an autobiographical account of finding the strength to deal with the loss of his wife and two sons in a plane crash over Costa Rican waters.
Retired police officer Ruetz was living with his wife, Cynthia, and young sons, Justin and Jack, in Costa Rica. In July 2005, his family, as well as his friend Paul and Paul’s son, Connor, died while taking an air tour in a light plane. Ruetz was devastated but believed that his family was communicating with him from “the Other Side.” In this, he found hope, and after consulting a medium, he recognized what he saw as signs or messages, like the repeated appearances of yellow-breasted birds, representing his wife and boys. Ruetz’s personal tale is often endearing, particularly when he talks about Cynthia and his sons. Learning the boys’ traits—Justin’s diagnosis of Asperger syndrome and Jack’s accident-prone behavior—makes them even more tangible. Ruetz, however, spends a good deal of the book discussing his connection with “Spirit,” what he calls his family’s messages from the afterlife, and what may have been premonitions prior to the accident; e.g., his intense fear of flying in small planes or a sudden feeling while at a store that his sons would die in the near future. Appendices at the book’s end, which catalog signs and ways in which Spirit has “guided” him (before and after the accident), are largely unconvincing: messages about a stuck gate or an expired Costco membership card are neither practical nor life-altering. And references to a specific medium come across as veiled advertisements, complete with the medium’s Web address. But even if the novel doesn’t sway skeptics, it’s an inspiring account of a husband and father coping with tragedy. Ruetz felt guilty after the plane crash for not warning his family of what he should have realized were foreboding signs, but later, the former cop clarifies his guilt in a much more discernible way—an inability to protect his wife and sons. Likewise, his apparent spirit communication brings Ruetz peace, which ultimately leads him to help others by opening a school in Costa Rica.
The author’s sincere, undeniably encouraging account of his communications with the dead.