Friday, January 9, 2015

The Ultimate Gift (The Ultimate Gift #1) by Jim Stovall

Release Date: June 15, 2001
Publisher: David C. Cook
Series: The Ultimate Gift series, Book 1
Author Website:

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

When Red Stevens died, he was at the patriarch of a very wealthy family, having made his fortune from lots of hard work in both the oil and cattle fields. His surviving family members gathered around the large conference table and awaited the reading of Red's will by his long-time friend and lawyer, Theodore Hamilton. Each of the family members received their portion of the wealth, along with certain conditions, except one - his great-nephew, Jason Stevens.

In order to receive his inheritance known as the Ultimate Gift, Jason must meet with Hamilton on the first of the month and find what lesson he needed to learn to move onto the next month and lesson. After a rough start and struggles of will, the wisdom of Red's lessons soon became clear to Jason and those on the journey with him. Will he be able complete the year-long test that Red laid before him? Will Red's hopes for the future of his family be gone with his death?

My mother-in-law and I watched the movie during Christmas years before I knew it was based upon a series of novels. When I saw this book offered on OHFB, I decided to see how well it related to the movie, but I would also keep an open mind about the differences should they present themselves. The biggest difference between the two was the perspective in which the entirety of the story was told. While the movie was able to focus on all of the characters in depth, this book followed Jason's journey from Theodore Hamilton's point-of-view.

Even though Mr. Hamilton was the guide or narrator of the story, Jason Stevens and his journey to complete the twelve tasks over the course of a year were the primary focus. He's a spoiled young man who hasn't had to do much in order to make ends meet. In order to save his life and help him make something of himself, his great-uncle's last wish directed Jason's stubbornness toward the tasks of learning the simple truths and pleasures life has to offer. There was as much to learn about Red and Theo as there was about Jason. Since the story was written from Theo's perspective, we're privy to his thoughts most of the time. Red offered his thoughts in video-taped messages that were played at the beginning of each session with the lawyer and at the end of Jason's journey, should he make it.

The book was a fairly quick read once the chain of events were set in motion by Red's death. Monthly tasks were covered within one or two chapters. Unfortunately, there was a bit of repetition a few chapters about how much of a great guy Red was to Theo and how at any time the process can be stopped if Theo wasn't satisfied with Jason's performance in the goals. Even had I not seen the movie beforehand, I still would be frustrated that I wasn't able to see more of Jason's transformation from the surly, spoiled kid into a more mature adult within the book. There's so much emphasis on the journey and the lessons that to not see more of the transformation was a letdown in some ways for me.

Overall, the book was a light, inspirational read. It was especially fitting for reading during the Christmas season. Though it lacked more depth in a few areas, it presented good cases for honesty, hard work, love and giving that aren't forgotten in our busy world. The message came home without a lot of over-the-top sappy stuff that some books use to move the story along. If you're looking for a decent delivery of some good messages, please pick up a copy of this book and share it with those you love.

The Ultimate Gift (The Ultimate Gift #1) by Jim Stovall is currently available at many retailers, both online and local. It can be purchased in various formats including hardcover, paperback, audio-book and digital (Kindle). The link below will take you to the book's Amazon page.
The Ultimate Gift (The Ultimate Gift #1) by Jim Stovall  

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