The Carriage Driver 2 by Michael Friedman Book Review
The second book in The Carriage Driver Series is a collection of stories rich with detail and empathy, about people from different walks of life. Each has faced some of the best and worst of what life dishes out. Once their name is called, the dearly departed are presented a different possibility for where they might wish to go. Their next journey begins with a ride in a horse-drawn carriage driven by Captain Griffin Chaney, pulled by his trusty white steed.
During the ride, questions are answered, options are offered and life begins anew with an infinite number of possibilities in which the traveler chooses a destination based on their tastes, talents and deepest desires.
The author touches on the lives of those in high standings and positions of power, of the highly intelligent and privileged and of those whose disadvantages are many, whose possessions and comforts are few. He relates tales of people who have been on a continuous struggle for survival and those who seem to have it all, each of whom face the same inevitable end when their time arrives.
Among my many favorites in this collection is the story, The Weathervane, in which the carriage driver picks up a woman from the rest home where she spent her final years. Her journey allows her time to contemplate her future and decide where she will begin eternity.
As she steps out of the carriage, she’s transformed into the younger self that has resided for years only within her memories. She finds herself wearing a favorite floral print summer dress, standing on a beach with swaying palms, warm tropical breezes and the familiar cries of drifting sea gulls. There she reunites with and is wrapped in the loving arms of her long since dearly departed husband where, once again, they share a world of their former happiness.
This is the kind of story that gives the surviving family of the deceased hope that their loved one truly rests not only in peace, but is enveloped in long-remembered prior days of true happiness.
One might wonder what a vision of Heaven would be like. A child's view of Paradise might include streets lined with lollipops, mountains of chocolate, soft baby dolls, and purple bicycles. For an artist, a singer, a ball player, a corporate executive, each might envision a different place as ideal. In The Carriage Driver, those in transition get to choose where they will go and what will be their forever after.
In another story, The Gutter Boy, Dylan meets a different outcome. He finds that life doesn’t have to be filled with abuse and disrespect after he encounters two kind doctors, a husband and wife team. Through them, he discovers that his time to move into the next world has not yet arrived. He experiences 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.
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.
Each character has a chance to meet Captain Griffin Chaffey, a veteran of the War Between the States who, after losing his own life, remained behind in the battlefield helping others find their way. He accepts his assignments cheerfully accompanied by Nuelle, a white horse whose intuition and spirit shines throughout as she munches on shared apples and trots to their 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.
Each story is packed with subtle clues and life lessons.
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.
In Sister Sarah's Miracle we meet Sister Sarah, an empathetic and generous worker of miracles. Her hands-on ministry of selflessness is directed toward the less fortunate, the downtrodden and the critically ill. In the story, she visits a young girl, a cancer victim who resides in Mass General Hospital.
Sister Sarah gives of herself to the point of depleting her supply of healing power. When she meets Captain Griffin, her strength returns and she is able to continue her valuable work on this earth. The Carriage Driver and Nuelle know how to keep a secret.
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 Carriage Driver Series
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