by Tom Donaldson

"God…sent his best guardian angel…to make sure that we got introduced to someone who would be very important in our lives."

Just when it seems that boy genius Sheldon Foley has it all—loving parents who nurture his brilliance, a pet dog, Max, who fiercely protects him, and a bright future—his father’s sudden death plunges his family into financial crisis. Weighed down by grief and pressure to stabilize their lives, Sheldon and his mother move to Midlothian, Texas, to start over. As he attempts to cope with the unpleasant aspects of his new life, Sheldon befriends a misunderstood man, Charlie Kilpatrick, who eventually becomes his mentor as Sheldon goes on to participate in the World Chess Championship.

Donaldson delivers a beautiful story about life, loss, and friendship. Using Sheldon’s journey from being a vulnerable nine-year-old boy to being a chess Grand Master and vice president of Informall Corporation, Donaldson focuses on how life’s hardest lessons make an individual strong. Such lessons involve loss, which touches all the main characters in the story, uniting them and burdening them with challenges: Sheldon struggles with his father’s absence; Maryann, his mother, struggles to balance work, family, and the shock of widowhood; and Charlie struggles to accept his family tragedies and experiences of the Vietnam War. In all this darkness, Max mysteriously arrives as a symbol of hope, guarding Sheldon against negatives and helping him find Charlie, a much-needed father figure. Like most well-liked mentors in movies and literature—think Albus Dumbledore—Charlie gives Sheldon a purpose: mastering chess and becoming a champion. It’s this purpose, along with Max’s love and Maryann’s support, which helps Sheldon stay afloat on life’s tumultuous seas. Donaldson’s elegant writing, along with twists and turns, makes this book a sheer delight to read. Heartwarming and fresh, this book charmingly portrays that life can be unpredictable, but with the right people beside us, we can always hope to smile a little longer.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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