Publisher: Waterside Productions, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: 387 Park Ave S., NY, NY
Cover: Linda Mark
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 10/9/2010
Summary: The life of Max Doff and his live travel to an appointment with 12/21/2012
This is the optimist’s version of THE CELESTINE PROPHECY (reviewed here in February 1995) Instead of a character tweaked by the words of an acquaintance to explore an heretofore unknown world of ideas, THE TWELVE gives us Max Doff who is born tweaked. A born explorer as it were.
This novel would be just another 2012-impending were it not for William Gladstone’s success in placing the main character, Max Doff, in the throbs of an ordinary life with ordinary problems. The spiritual undercurrent that takes Max from his first breath to the somewhat hokey, hocus-pocus events at the end of this novel is what keeps the reader engaged. In the end, we are left to wonder about the spiritual undercurrent of Max’s older brother, Louis. We are never given the entire blueprint of Louis’s psyche but we get enough to know that the two brothers are opposite beings. This realization leaves us with a question. It may be a question the author intended. Maybe not. Under either circumstance, the polarity between Max and Louis inclines us to accept Max, in all his ordinariness and “specialness” for what he is-the explorer with a rendezvous with the date 12/21/2012.
Any parent would recognize the specialness of Max. The first sentence of the novel describing the pre-birth of Max sets the tone for everything that follows. Ten months later, when Max is taken home from the hospital and he is introduced to his brother Louis, the specialness of it all seems to evaporate and a harsh reality sets in. It is this harsh reality that Max must contend with up until his fifteenth year when he dies. And survives.
Every life has a turning point, a pivotal moment in which what was before is perceived as merely preparation for what is to come. Such moments are not circumstance but rather attitude. For Max, his turning point leaves him in a mild state of confusion. He comes to believe that he is special, that there is a “mission of greater importance” riveting his life to the here-and-now. But what is the mission? Why isn’t the mission as clear as the years of surviving the antagonism of his brother or the demonstrated love of his parents? Even the specifics of what he takes away from his near-death-experience is frustratingly vague and incomprehensible. Twelve names are revealed to him, but he remembers only one and that name has no resonance with any person or thing in his life.
For the next forty-seven years, Max seems to meander through life. He marries. He makes a million. He loses a million. He divorces. He travels. But there are moments in this life travelogue which take him back to his pivotal moment. Wisdom eventually flowers from his actions and he ties it all together. He reaches his 12/21/2012 moment.
The beauty of THE TWELVE is that it is a simple story. The horror of THE TWELVE is that it is a simple story that all of us live out on some level while marshaling all the forces of our nature to exclude ourselves from. It is the I-am-like-you-but-I-am-special attitude. What Max and the other characters in his story perceive as an inclusive bond, the majority of us see as the basis for exclusion. It is a quirk of religious belief that what makes the “true believer” special is the same quality that excludes them from life-ordinary life with flaws, omissions, and the ordinary petty grievances of living within the constraints of the here and now. Max does not fall in the cracks of conventionality because, sometimes despite himself, that spark of the explorer is burning brightly within. He can not settle into conventionality, even the seemingly unconventional conventionality of an eastern spiritual guru.
THE TWELVE is an enticing story with near flawless execution. However, there is no real payoff. The ending is appropriate but, well, odd. Still, an enjoyable read.