Reviewer Bani Sodermark. Bani has a Ph.D in mathematical physics and has been a teacher of physics and mathematics at the university level in both India and Sweden. For the last decade, her interests have been spirituality, healthy living and self-development. She has written a number of reviews on http://amazon.com. Bani is a mother to two children.
Author: Steve Kubick
Publisher: Summit Partners,LLC
The Spiritual Odyssey of George Washington
It was about four decades ago that I had read The Birth of the United States by Isaac Asimov. For those who haven’t read it, or even for those who have and forgotten all about it, Asimov focuses more on the forces that shaped the events leading to the formation of the United States of America instead on the events themselves. It is a very powerful way to learn history, for one intuits very fast why circumstances turn out the way they do, why certain people got to do what they did and, in this case, why the British ultimately lost out. Reading Asimov’s book, one also gets the clear impression that somehow George Washington was favoured by Fate to spearhead the revolution that resulted in the creation of a new way of life based on more egalitarian principles than the parent country.
Asimov’s book does not bring in the divinity aspect of the whole exercise, though he does suggest that George Washington lived somewhat of a charmed life. Throwing some light on this aspect of the Washington Odyssey has been the object of the author Steve Kubick in this book.
The main strategy used by the author to highlight the role played by the Almighty is as follows. The protagonist of this novel Stephen Spitz, called Spitz in this book, is a bitter, elderly widower, who lives with his seventeen year old granddaughter, Aspen. Aspen’s parents, who were Spitz’s son and daughter-in-law, were killed in an air crash in Indonesia. The loss of his son and only child turns Spitz from a confirmed believer to an equally confirmed atheist for years. The only light in his life is his granddaughter, with whom he shares a rare togetherness, an inner circle into which no others are allowed to intrude.
One day, while reading a collection of George Washington’s writings, in particular, the Inaugural Address, Spitz launches into a tirade with his granddaughter about the “Invisible Hand”. Aspen hands him her father’s gold covered Bible, which had survived the crash. Flipping through the Bible at random, Spitz directs his impotent rage and frustration at an unseen God, daring It to answer and assuage his agony over the trials in his life, in particular, the loss of his son. This prayer is answered at once, as he suffers a stroke, which, while keeping his body alive, but immobile, takes his awareness to another time and space, possibly a past life where he had been an aide to George Washington and privy to his inner thoughts. As his body recovers in a hospital, the story continues simultaneously on three planes of existence.
As Spitz lies immobile in the hospital, he relives an encounter where he first met George Washington, and starts a diary where he records instances of divine protection and mercies received by him. Meanwhile Aspen is worried sick about her “Papa”, and visits him as often as her job and visiting hours at the hospital permit her. As the story unfolds, an African-American nurse emerges to provide sound advice and much needed emotional support to both Aspen and Spitz as they move ahead on this unusual journey together.
Spitz meets George Washington at several different stages of his life. At each of these encounters, he documents how circumstances conspired to ultimately help George Washington and protect him from his enemies during the war for Independence. And after emerging in the hospital bed at the aftermath of each encounter, Spitz experiences successive healings of some part of his immobility. Aspen’s life also changes radically at the same time, she also acquires a new colleague at work, who offers her unconditional life and support.
Some of the incidents mentioned in the text are connected with the places, Valley Forge, Great Meadows, Monmouth and Yorktown among others. There is an exceptionally moving incident when George Washington loses his stepson whom he loved dearly as his own. After this incident, Spitz realizes like all of us men and women, that God’s actions cannot be questioned. These insights serve to heal his body.
This is not a book I could read in a day. The writing is very skillful and the narrative interlocks with masterly accuracy, historical facts with imaginative fiction. It took time for me to ingest each episode as I kept looking back again and again to understand the connections.
I strongly recommend this book to all those of us who are struggling with beliefs on existential issues.