4 out of 4 stars
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Gathered by Kurt Hansen is the fictional journey of Sol Severson, a man who appears to have it all but longs for more. Despite his successful accounting career, home in an affluent Chicago neighborhood, and the love of his wife and daughter, Sol feels empty. As the story unfolds, he faces a traumatic loss that causes him to confront buried feelings involving his father. Seeking healing and answers, Sol returns to his small hometown in Wisconsin to learn more about his family roots. Will he find the peace and fulfillment he is seeking?
This well-written book is 201 pages and is divided into four sections that are named for the seasons of the year but are also symbolic of Sol's journey. In the synopsis, Hansen is conservative about the details he shares regarding Sol's loss, so I will respectfully follow suit. However, Sol's journey draws certain parallels to Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The book traverses themes of family, relationships, loss, grief, forgiveness, acceptance, healing, and redemption. Although the story focuses primarily on Sol's internal struggle, Hansen effectively drives the plot through various evolving relationships.
Hansen's character development is spot-on. He masters the writing rule of showing versus telling and skillfully portrays characters by giving the reader glimpses into their lives. Sol is relatable and likable while his teenage daughter, Amy, is often moody. Sol's wife, Jan, tends to distance herself when she becomes overwhelmed, and his secretary, Emma, is bubbly but efficient. Sol's relationship with Aunt Christine is especially endearing. Hansen's characters are distinctive to the point that I feel I could identify them by the dialogues alone.
I particularly like Hansen's writing style; it is eloquent, captivating, and filled with prose-like imagery, such as, "They were a veritable palette of people, all living in proximity, and all blendable with the brush strokes of memory, melded by their shared history into a broad panorama, much like their color-rich autumn trees." I also appreciate Hansen's inclusion of a protagonist with a strong respect for women. Despite growing up in the 50s, Sol refers to his father's example of mutual respect between his parents.
I honestly can't name anything I dislike about the book or highlight any suggested improvements. In addition to the excellent writing, the editing is pristine. The book contains several profane words; only one is R-rated. The minimal sexual references are of a romantic nature and are non-explicit.
I wholeheartedly rate Gathered 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to readers who appreciate stories about redemption, family, and relationships. The book will also appeal to those who enjoy writing that is characterized by imagery and prose.
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