THE SPIRIT MAN by Sean K. Murphy


Email this review


In this slim, nostalgic novella, Murphy explores the midlife mending of past regrets, self-redemption and a second chance at love lost.

Wending across the canyon lands of Arizona in a flashy green Jag, 40-something Johnny Sullivan, a high-paid exec with the world at his fingertips, tries to outrun the empty shell his life has become. Burned out by the rat race, he makes his way to California to “Grow a ponytail. Do volunteer work. Be Zen.” Everything changes at a roadside diner when he meets Huber, a Navajo medicine man-cum-auto mechanic who, after the Jag mysteriously breaks down, entices Johnny to empty his closets. Johnny, subconsciously embittered and permanently scarred by a graduation-night car wreck that results in the death of his high school sweetheart (a tragedy he could have prevented were it not for his selfishness), confesses his gaping emotional wounds to Huber, who offers him a chance to heal his broken spirit. In bewitching detail, Huber blows on a candle flame and Johnny time-travels, re-entering his teenage body while retaining his mature mind, three days before the fatal night. Working quickly, he manages to avert the impending accident. But all this comes with a price tag Huber neglected to mention. Throughout the process, Johnny reaps much more than the second chance at love. Maneuvering between the somewhat arrogant, skeptic his protagonist has become and the innocent aspiring writer and high school boxing star of yesteryear, Murphy’s shifts in narrative voice are masterful. The only qualm is the use of a Navajo shaman as a vehicle for the liberal guilt-afflicted yuppie to redeem himself. However, in a stroke of near self-parody at the outset, Murphy inserts the narrative disclaimer, “Huber fit with the scenery like a cliché.” But the overall caliber of the author’s craft, which is captivating and at times cinematic, defaults with dexterous ease back to the page-turning quality of the story.

Universally appealing tract breathes with a life of its own.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 978-1-4010-5801-2
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: