Hi, Aadi here! Can you believe it’s already the first week of Advent? I love this time of year. The snow, the decorations, the romance novels. Mischa, the grouch is here too. You know, you can quit rolling your eyes. Christmas romances are sweet reads.
Hey, it’s Mischa. And I’m not a grouch. I just don’t like mushy romances.
Whatever, Mischa, you grouch. Anyway, I have A Shepherd’s Story by Janice Lane Palko for you today. Get yourself a fuzzy blanket, a comfy chair and big cup of hot cocoa and enjoy this Christmas romance.
Tom Shepherd is anything but a hero. A senior physics major at Three Rivers University in Pittsburgh, he just wants to make some easy cash. On the last Sunday in November, he arrives to sell the Christmas season’s hottest toy, So Big Sammy, for three times its retail price to a buyer, but a snafu lands him in the middle of a bone marrow drive benefitting four-year- old Christo Davidson, who has leukemia. When everyone there—including the media covering the event–assumes that Tom has come to give the toy to the sick boy, Tom has no choice but to give it away.
Lauded by the media as a hero and bestowed with the nickname The Good Shepherd, Tom finds himself an overnight celebrity. As a toy scalper and liar, he knows he’s unworthy of the honor, but when Gloria Davidson, a fellow student and Christo’s relative, seeks out Tom to thank him for being so kind to her little cousin, Tom, bewitched by her beauty, embellishes his character and lies to further impress Gloria, portraying himself as a big-hearted philanthropist.
Tom asks Gloria out, beginning a relationship that will lead him to examine everything he believes or doesn’t believe. On Christmas Eve, Tom finds himself facing choices that will affect not only himself but also Gloria and Christo. Tom must choose between sacrifice and honor, love and loneliness, life and death.
Tom works part-time in the college book store, and this is a scene between him and the manager of the store Rajiv.
“I did not mean to frighten you, Thomas.” Rajiv’s lean brown figure hovered so close I could smell the curry powder on his breath. I didn’t believe him. He’s always scaring me. Americans are too big and loud to be really good at skulking. Rajiv was smaller and treaded more lightly. He insists that if I lived in the “present moment” instead of letting my mind wander, I’d be aware of him and not be startled when he approached.
My mind wasn’t wandering today. It was fixed on Gloria. I needed to talk to her, but with this weather, she’d never be able to drive over and see me.
“What is it?” I growled as I knelt on the floor and began collecting the books I’d dropped.
He held a magazine in his hand. “I hope you do not take offense, but I feel it is my duty to point out your error.”
I’d probably dog-eared the magazine while I was stocking the racks, and now he was here to nag me about it. I rose. “What error?”
“Do you recall our conversation the day the news reporters came seeking you? When I said you are negative and that one day you will meet your positive?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“You will remember that you stated that when a positive and negative meet, they annihilate each other.”
“Yeah? So what’s your point?”
“Please forgive me, Thomas. But you are wrong.”
Wrong? What did he mean wrong? Who was the physics major here? Annoyed, I put my hands on my hips and adopted my wise-guy tone of voice. “OK, Rajiv, you tell me how I’m wrong.”
“You have heard of antimatter, I presume?”
“Yes, of course I’ve heard of antimatter.”
Antimatter is believed to have been formed alongside regular matter when the universe was created. In an environment of high energy, matter is created in pairs—one particle of matter and one of anti-matter.
“What about it?”
“What happens, Thomas, when matter and antimatter meet?”
This conversation was an insult to my intelligence. I rolled my eyes. “I told you before, Rajiv. They annihilate each other. When a positive and negative collide, they obliterate each other, wipe each other out. Got it?”
“Then why do you and I exist?”
“What’s that have to do with antimatter?”
“Thomas, why do we exist?”
“I thought we were talking physics here, Rajiv, not philosophy.”
“Ah, but I am.” He licked his fingers and began leafing through the magazine. “I was reading this article on antimatter, and it stated that for every billion antiparticle-particle pair created, there was one extra particle. A positive particle. If there had not been that one extra positive particle, the universe would not exist.” He looked at me. “You and I would not exist.”
“Let me see that magazine,” I said, grabbing it from him. Pushing the hair out of my eyes, I looked at it. “I can’t read this.” I shut the magazine. The stupid thing was written in a foreign language—Hindi or hieroglyphics, or something.
“So you see you were wrong,” he said.
I thrust the magazine back at him and walked toward the stockroom to get more books to shelve. I didn’t need him explaining the universe to me.
Mr. Persistence, Rajiv, followed after me, practically skipping as I doubled my pace to get away from him. “When a positive and a negative meet, Thomas, it is not annihilation—but assimilation and creation. It is destiny that positive wins. It is woven into the fabric of the universe; it is preordained in the stars. Good must triumph over evil, love over hate.”
I stopped in the stockroom’s doorway and turned to tell him to get lost, but when I looked at him, he beamed his blinding white smile at me, “the cowboys in the white hats over the ones in the black.”
“OK, OK,” I said, throwing up my hands in surrender. “I get it. Positive wins. Big deal. What’s that have to do with me?”
“It has everything to do with you.”
He placed a hand on my arm. “I tell you this as a friend, Thomas. Do not be afraid to embrace the positive. Open yourself to it. It will not destroy you. It only desires to unite with you to create something beautiful.”
I jerked my arm away. I didn’t want to hear this garbage. I was still hell-bent on annihilation.
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think in the comments.