A sick young boy and an elderly man looking for something to live for form a deep bond in this debut novel.
Murray McBride is turning 100, but he’s in no celebratory mood. Still mourning the death of his beloved wife, Jenny, 18 months ago, Murray feels his life has run its course. He’s outlived not only his wife, but also his two sons, who died after long lives. His only remaining family, his grandson, Chance, seems to only be after his money. Murray’s Roman Catholic faith has been the main thing keeping him from suicide recently, but he resolves to make his 100th birthday the last day he takes the daily pill his lungs need to function, figuring such a death doesn’t really count. Vaguely hoping to comfort the ailing on his last full day, Murray wanders into a local heart ward and meets someone who changes his life: 10-year-old Jason Cashman, who desperately needs a transplant and must tote around an oxygen cart. After Jason leaves the hospital with his cold, money-driven father, Murray finds a list of the boy’s five wishes to be granted before he dies. Murray mourns lost time spent with his own sons due to his professional baseball career with the Chicago Cubs, and sees an opportunity to atone. With the assistance of Jason’s wise-beyond-her-years neighbor, Tiegan Rose Marie Atherton, Murray sets out to help the boy kiss a girl, hit a home run, and fulfill his dreams. Siple’s plot devices, messages, and character types will feel very familiar to fans of Hallmark movies and other inspirational tales, and these predictable beats mean his players sometimes feel more like moving cogs than fully complex human beings. But his story is still readable and well-told. Murray’s struggle to find meaning after outliving almost everyone in his life who mattered to him is one of the book’s most sensitively rendered elements. Jason’s reckoning with mortality provides some touching moments as well. But Siple struggles to capture the speech and mannerisms of a 10-year-old boy (Jason’s emails and ebullient statements are peppered with “Schweet!” and “Dude!”), which limits his impact as a character.
A sweet, albeit by-the-book, tale of human connection.