Review of The Carriage Driver 2, Author Michael Friedman
Sitting in church as a youngster, I often wondered exactly what Heaven would look like. Words from the pulpit about singing songs of praise and worshiping in the light of our Redeemer for an eternity left questions that fell short of a child’s view of Paradise. At the time, streets lined with lollipops, gumdrop trees, mountains of chocolate, soft pink baby dolls, purple bicycles and pretty dresses sounded more like it.
With time, my concept of Heaven evolved into a place of “Many Mansions” where we would be reconciled with long lost loved ones, missing pets, regain our youth and revive our forgotten dreams. We would be welcomed into a kingdom paved with streets of gold where there are no tears, sickness or pain.
Mike Friedman, author of The Carriage Driver 2 presents the idea of such an after-world customized to each person’s dream of eternity. His stories suggest to freshly departed souls that a carriage ride to the place of their dreams and a journey to their own paradise on the other side awaits. Filled with stories of warmth, comfort and happiness after a stark slice of reality on this planet, the idea of moving on to the other side takes on a generous helping of hope.
In his story, The Weathervane, one of my favorites, a woman departs the rest home where she lives, leaving this realm to rejoin her first and only love; her officer and gentleman. As she steps out of the carriage, she’s transformed into the younger self that lives these days only in her memories. She finds herself clothed in a floral print summer dress wrapped in the loving arms of her long since departed husband. They enter a world of their former happiness with swaying palms, tropical breezes and the familiar cries of drifting sea gulls.
The Gutter Boy
In a different tale, The Gutter Boy, Dylan, finds that life doesn’t have to be filled with abuse and disrespect. He meets two kind doctors, a husband and wife team, through Captain Griffin, the Carriage Driver himself. His time to move into the next world has not yet arrived; only a change in his surroundings and circumstance through which he’s destined to lead a richer way of life and repay his debt with future kindness.
The Treasure Hunter
Some stories parallel current events, as they do in The Treasure Hunter, a tale about a man who goes missing while in search of buried gold. The author shares that he borrows from the lives of his readers to bring out the harsh realities of life and the impact our choices have on our outcomes. For the treasure hunter, his choice determines his eventual fate; an analogy of the choices we all make as we pass through.
A variety of locations, professions, talents, circumstances and outcomes are shared in the settings and characters held within this slim volume, packed with subtle clues and life lessons.
Each, in passing, have a chance to meet Captain Griffin Chaffey who accepts his assignments cheerfully, accompanied by his trusty steed, Nuelle, a white horse whose intuition and spirit shines throughout as she munches on apples and trots to assigned destinations. Sometimes, she enjoys a romp in the surf as part of her reward for a job well done. Other times, she must face the uncertainties of strange and frightening places where darkness and despair lurk.
Mike Friedman touches on the lives of those in high standings and positions of power, of the highly intelligent and privileged and touches those whose disadvantages are many, whose possessions and comforts are few. He tells of those whose lives represent a continuous struggle for survival and those who seem to have it all, yet who face the same inevitable end when their time arrives.
In The Man Unseen, we meet a young man whose torment began early in life when tormented by schoolchildren and peers who taunted and took advantage of the special needs child. As an adult, his difficulties are multiplied when his mother passes and an unscrupulous man from the bank cheats him out of his rightful home. He’s forced to live out his days on the street in constant danger. His wisdom extends beyond his circumstance when he shares his worldly observations with the driver. “There ought to be rules for men to live by.” It comes as no surprise when he chooses an afterlife filled with generosity toward others who suffer like he did in life.
Within the collection, we meet Sister Sarah, whose hands-on empathy and selflessness is directed toward the less fortunate, the downtrodden and the critically ill. She gives of herself to the point of depleting her supply of healing power when she meets Captain Griffin and her strength returns to continue her valuable work on this earth. The Carriage Driver and Nuelle know how to keep a secret.
The White Mare
Nuelle, the elegant and intuitive white mare and the captain operate their carriage out of Boston, but the author tells us that in stories across “all cities, towns, boroughs and villages”, others carry on the same legacy. They drive the dearly departed to their chosen destination where they can carry on in the next life. Or if they choose to wait for a brother, a spouse, a child or loved one, “there is a castle in the sky whose spires puncture heaven to accommodate them.”
Worthy tales that bear second, third and ongoing review, the reader will find themselves captivated by the depth of the subtleties and deeper meaning within. This is great reading late at night when the troubles of the world surround you in the peace and quiet of your insomnia. The stories put the mind to rest and restore a sense of calm in a world of turmoil.
The stories have characters with whom it’s easy to relate. They are our brothers, sisters, parents, children and others whose lives encompass every aspect of what we are meant to become while on this journey called life. Their stories are “meant to make you think about the setting of our hereafter…The Carriage Driver is your liaison to the heaven of your choosing.” Don’t be fooled by the free ride. Those who climb on board have paid in advance.
As a separate bonus, the end of the book contains a short stand-alone story titled, “Walking to Goleta,” a tale of companionship, compassion, generosity, ingenuity, and a heartwarming miracle at Christmas time.
© 2016 Peg Cole
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