In this novel by a 9/11 survivor, chance plays a major role in the lives of two best friends—but character plays an even bigger one.
In 1989, promising college student Tobias Hillyer has just arrived home to spend Christmas with his condescending father, alcoholic mother and Simeon, his gifted and artistic younger brother. After a sudden and tragic accident, Tobias becomes his brother’s caretaker and, instead of returning to school, finds his academic future shredded. In contrast, Martin, his former college roommate and best friend, seems showered with good fortune, landing a high-paying job after college with Lehman Brothers in New York. The men keep in touch through a shared passion for tennis. Tobias, stuck in a low-paying job, marries Carmela, a psychiatric nurse he met as a result of the accident. Martin marries Valerie, and the years tick by. The couples, and eventually their children, stay close friends, despite the discrepancy in their incomes. On a whim, Tobias buys a Mega Millions lottery ticket and wins the jackpot—suddenly everything is reversed; Tobias and Carmela live out their fantasies while Martin faces bankruptcy. The allegedly lucky couple faces countless problems—kidnappers, acquaintances begging for money, jealousy and lack of trust. Still, Tobias has a guiding belief in what is truly important, making his story one of triumph rather than defeat. Aside from an occasional overabundance of “telling”—details from the wedding and honeymoon read like journal entries—the strong sense of story and pace makes this an eminently readable and inspiring narrative. Duval’s earnest, likable characters possess an inner strength they must put into play in moments of struggle. The author adds suspense by intimating how the characters may be impacted by the eventual terrorist attack on World Trade Center.
Achieves the neat trick of presenting moral values in a persuasive and uplifting way without being preachy or boring.