Elijah's Coin by Steve O'Brien is a hard book for me to pin down my feelings for. It's a story about Tom, a young boy who starts making poor choices, and doing 'bad things' and how Elijah, a mysterious man gives him a coin and a lesson that will change his life.
I knew that this was going to be a novel that included life lessons when I accepted the invite from the publisher to review the novel. And I was okay with that. I'm still okay with that. Sometimes, that's what I'm in the mood to read. But this one felt a little... false to me.
For starters, this book felt like a true story trying too hard to be a novel. When I first started reading it, I kind of struggled. It just didn't feel right. When it occurred to me that it didn't feel quite right as a novel, I stopped reading it so much as a story, and instead looked at the lessons it was trying to convey. Once I started reading it with that perspective, the story and I got along much, much better.
The lessons this book teaches are really things that everyone should learn. They are fairly basic things but things that make life better for everyone around you. Things like, offer to help people before they ask. Or better, if you see someone who needs help, just do it. Or, that luck doesn't really exist, and in order to make something of yourself, you need to stop waiting for your luck to change and get to work.
As a novel, I felt that there were some awkward holes and pacing and the ending was given a very pretty, very tidy bow that wrapped up the story a little too neatly to really feel authentic to the rest of the story. Also, I have been very open about the fact that I don't like sudden genre changes in the middle of my books, so I didn't do well with the sudden metaphysical ponderings tossed into the middle of my realistic contemporary book, even though I saw them coming. I want my books to pick a genre, and stay there. I don't like when my contemporary becomes something beyond that.
The author also included a set of two coins in the back of the book, replicas of Elijah's coin. One is for you, and one is to pass along to someone needing to learn what this book teaches. The coin serves as a reminder throughout the story for Tom, and the other characters that Elijah touches, and the coins in the back are supposed to be that for you as well. I'm gonna be honest here- the likelihood of me personally ever using the coin is slim to none and I cannot see myself passing it along to anyone else either. But it's a nice touch, a gesture that I can appreciate and it adds a level of authenticity to the story and the lessons learned.
All this being said, I am glad that I was given the opportunity to read this book. It is definitely not for everyone, and I recommend taking a fairly close look at it before you commit to a purchase, but it is something I'm grateful to have read, and I believe the lessons taught are things that we all could use a little reminding about.
*Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.