The Final Summit
By Andy Andrews
243 Pages, including Reader’s Guide
Thomas-Nelson Publishers, Hardcover
The Final Summit is a different sort of book than I normally read. To be sure, I do not spend a great deal of time reading fiction so when I opened this book and began to read it, I was, indeed, surprised. This is no ordinary book of fiction; this is no ordinary book at all.
The Final Summit is the sequel to Andrews’ book The Traveler’s Gift which featured the character David Ponder (I believe my details are accurate, although I have not read The Traveler’s Gift). Fortunately for me, Andrews reviews the former story in chapter 1 as the main character, Ponder, rehearses for the reader his former journeys. On the former journey, Ponder, met several people from history and each one gave Ponder an important, pithy, saying by which he might rebuild his broken life.
Along the way, he met Harry Truman, King Solomon, Joshua Chamberlain, Christopher Columbus, Anne Frank, Abraham Lincoln, and an arch-angel named Gabriel (whom I presume to be the same angel named Gabriel we find in the Bible). Each of these historical persons gave Ponder a bit of wisdom that he refers to as the Seven Decisions for Success. The Final Summit follows much the same pattern that The Traveler’s Gift followed: Ponder is at the end of his ropes again, the archangel Gabriel makes another appearance, and various people from history show up to guide Ponder on his way.
The gist of the story is that the world is on the edge of destruction and Ponder, guided by a Virgil like Gabriel, convenes a meeting of the (dead, historical) minds and they begin to talk about how they are going to save this fragile world—as if the world needs any more saving; as if we have the capability to talk ourselves into a solution. We are also reminded of how quickly the world is slipping away by the most conspicuously placed hourglass.
Winston Churchill serves as a startling doppelganger to Ponder and, frankly, is rather annoying. Given that this is my first introduction to Andrews’ writing, the Churchill character greatly disappointed me.
I also found Gabriel’s manner of speech to be inane. He refers to everyone he speak to by their first and last names. This might be a clever literary device, but it was sort of lost on me. So Ponder is not Mr Ponder or David, but David Ponder; Churchill is Winston Churchill. It’s a small thing, and maybe it is explained in the other book. I still would find it annoying.
My third complaint is the utter lack of diversity in the book. Well, utter, is a bit strong. There is one black man who gets a voice in the book and that is George Washington Carver. There is only one woman, Joan of Arc—seriously? (Other characters include Abraham Lincoln, Eric Erickson, King David, and Joshua Chamberlain.) In two books, drawing on nearly 2000 years of history and the entire world, it is absolutely amazing to me that only one black man and two women made the cut. It is also rather amazing that a certain man from Nazareth failed to make the cut.
It’s kind of hard to imagine a narrower world than the one created in this book. To be sure, the ‘audience’ participating in the story includes a great many women and people of minority status. Still, the plot turns on those who are chosen to share their wisdom with Ponder in the hopes of saving the nearly dead world. The ideas shared by the ones chosen are great ideas and there is nothing wrong with the ideas. (I do have a slight problem with the notion that everyone included in the story has somehow or other been ‘saved’, but that’s a theological argument I’m not prepared to defend in this review.) The problem is that I’m just not so sure this is good fiction.
Each chapter was well written. I especially enjoyed chapter 9 and the discussion of depression, Churchill’s ‘black-dog,’ and self-discipline. This was probably the best chapter in the book and it is a fair representation of the style of the rest of the book. Great discussions take place and much of what is said is wise and beautiful—well worth the read. The conversations, placed in the mouths of historical persons, make great fodder for conversation and combined with the reader’s guide could be useful even in a small group setting or a reading circle. Readers are also provided with some great background information—in particular I found the story of Eric Erickson fascinating.
“And success in any endeavor where self-discipline is involved boils down to this question: can you make yourself do something you don’t particularly want to do in order to get a result you would like to have?” (156).
This is wonderful, sermon-worthy stuff: “Unless you change how you think and how you act, you will always be who you are” (161). The book gave me a lot to think about and it will for anyone who reads it. In this regard, the book reads like a fictionalized Tony Robbins or Stephen Covey and maybe it is supposed to. Those who find motivational speaking or writing enjoyable will be wowed by this book.
This is a short, easy read. It was fun and entertaining. I have grave doubts as to the solution and as I was waiting for the end, even anxiously awaiting the end, I found it profoundly disappointing and anticlimactic. I tried really hard to like this book. I tried really hard to like the premise. I tried rally hard to find the conclusion satisfying and rewarding. I was left wanting. This is not the type of fiction all readers of fiction will enjoy.
The book is not a total loss though. There is much to enjoy and there is much to ponder. There is even something to be said about the conclusion of the book: It’s not an entirely bad idea, I just don’t know if it will save the world. It may be helpful. It may be a super idea. And it may be that in its simplicity there is a great deal more truth than I am giving credit for, but none us of can wait to see if it is true. We have to get busy testing it. Then we will know.
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I was provided with a free copy of The Final Summit for review purposes. I was in no way compensated for this unbiased review.