In Lange’s debut novel, a recovering cancer patient finds inspiration in Sufi poetry and New Age spirituality as he searches for true love.
James Wilder, a divorced father of two, is undergoing alternative treatments for prostate cancer at a center where he meets a mysterious beauty named Willow Leaf; they reconnect later at a Boulder, Colorado, ashram. She’s one of seven women with whom he falls in love, but each has a secret that tears the relationship apart. In Willow’s case, it’s a fiancé whom she’s unwilling to leave. James’ old friend Kat inspires him to love again, but this realization occurs at the worst possible time. Later, he meets Charlotte, who, like him, is playing the field after her divorce. This is followed by a connection with Saraswati “Sara” Stowe, his yoga instructor, who needs time before starting a new relationship—but not for the reason he thinks. In Bali, James inspires Londoner Nabila Khan with his poetry, but her rich ex-husband stalks them with his bodyguards. Finally, at a San Diego conference, James meets Angie, an astrologer, and Malena, a certified nursing assistant, and one of them changes the course of his life. In a clever framing device, James memorializes each relationship with a mala, a garland of beads used for prayer; the chapter names mostly correspond to stones within the mala, such as amazonite or lapis lazuli—but later, James strives to build a different, “better mala.” Sprinkled throughout are unrhymed poems inspired by Sufi poets Rumi and Hafiz, of which “A Rude Guest,” personifying love, is a highlight. Although the failed relationships dominate the story, Lange effectively devotes much of the narrative to James’ self-reflection, as when he describes his rescue dog, Rocco, “as a consolation prize for the kids when divorce split their world into two lesser halves.” Just when all hope seems lost, the author brings key plot points together that force his protagonist to look at aspects of his life through a different lens, bringing the story to a dramatic, heartwarming conclusion.
Readers will be inspired by this novel’s hapless hero and his relatable quest to understand his mistakes and change his destiny.