Title: Ray vs the Meaning of Life by Michael F. Stewart
Genre: Currently # 147 on Amazon Best Sellers Rank in Kindle eBooks, Literature & Fiction, Genre Fiction, Metaphysical
Publisher: The Publishing House
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title and Cover: Ray vs the Meaning of Life – Fantastic cover–totally gets the subject
When I read the review by Nicole over at The BookWorm Drinketh for Ray vs the Meaning of Life, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. (TY, Nicole, you nailed it!) Fortunately, it was still available (now archived) on NetGalley, though it was termed Humor, Teens, and YA. What?! Heaven knows I’ve violated several of my rules recently, why not this one? Well, I’m so glad, once again, that I stepped beyond my own comfortable genres to sample this “YA” novel. But really, YA? Amazon classifies the genre as Metaphysical and Visionary (oh, and Coming of Age).
It should have just stopped at Brilliant Literature.
As many of the other reviewers have mentioned, this literary novel regards an immature high schooler whose claim to fame at 17 years is his legendary prowess with gaming on the internet. He lives in his grandmother’s RV park in his own little unit while his mother, sister, and uncle virtually run the park. The park is far larger and more valuable than any of them perceived.
Until Grandma is killed by a grizzly, that is (“If the bear’s brown, lay down. If it’s black, fight back.”), and no one is more surprised than Ray when it is he his grandma proposes to leave the RV park, her real estate fortune–IF he can provide the explanation for the meaning of life to her attorney that agrees with hers. The attorney has the envelope with the answer and Ray is given thirty days to match it.
The story begins with Ray in first person adolescent vocabulary struggling to describe the death of his grandmother, “Here’s what killed Grandma:” And it begins in such a simplistic manner as to make you wonder if you got the right book. Still, with that opening, you are quickly sucked in and soon join the quest to discover the meaning of life right along with Ray; clueless, irresponsible, irritating Ray.
As Ray bumbles about trying to discover the meaning of life, the reader is likewise gifted an enlightening number of ah-ha moments, humorous situations, and people struggling with their own lives in all ranges of the spectrum from the lowest mining laborer to the millionaire philosopher-guru, Dalen Anders. Hired by an astute grandma not without her own wealthy means, Dalen’s there to help.
There is laugh out loud moments, serious family entanglements, a little girl from a desperate situation, and scary secrets from the past.
As you get deeper into the characters and are fully invested in each, the reader becomes aware that softer, smarter Ray begins to immerge. Ray is totally infatuated with Tina, but Ray has managed more moral strength than one would have thought he possessed given his familial circumstances. I’m not sure where you start rooting for Ray–but you do. These are familiar characters. We’ve each met them. And the writer gradually allows you to see into each personality, perhaps to understand and sympathize more fully. Does Ray actually discover the meaning of life in thirty days? You’ll just have to read and enjoy for yourself!
I was granted the ebook download by the publisher and NetGalley and was thrilled to read and review–absolutely loved this book! I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a feel-good book with a broad appeal from young adult to seniors. So many teachable moments, memorable quotes, and sweet messages. This book would make a great gift for your graduate, grandchild, aunt, friend, or holiday gift. I bought it for my associate reviewer who whizzed through it. His review follows:
The C.E’s Review
A grizzly end starts a new beginning. This tale is a masterpiece of life’s mysteries spun in a unique and fascinating manner. Michael Stewart has developed a narrative that can be recognized by all who remember the pain of growing older. All of us have faced a quest for the meaning of life. Most never actually get the answer.
Family intrigues and jealousy form a backdrop for this young man’s quest to find his meaning of life. Giving up a calling as a gamer for the more basic existence, he is thrust into a saga of adventure after adventure. He soon finds out that his family has been working very hard so that he can become a world class gamer. But grandma has a different plan for his life. Devious even unto her grave I could not put the book down until I finished it. I would suggest this as a must read in high school English classes.
Rosepoint Publishing: Five #MustRead (BIG) Stars
The Author: Michael F. Stewart embraces all forms of storytelling. In 2009, he created Bully For You for Scholastic, a fully functioning social media platform with an embedded interactive story. He’s written graphic novels for Rubicon Publishing’s Boldprint series, illustrated early readers and novellas for Pearson (coming in 20 19!), non fiction texts on Corruption and Children’s Rights; he even tried to convince the world that we needed a location based storytelling app with augmented reality (NARR8R)—we still do!
He’s written adult horror, sci-fi, urban fantasy, and adventure. He’s even written books you’ll never find.
But nothing is ever wasted. His most recent book, Counting Wolves, a contemporary YA, was named to Kirkus Reviews “Best Books of 2017” list. The Boy Who Swallows Flies (2018) won Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award, and the Assured Destruction Series won The Creation of Stories: Best YA Award at the Toronto International Book Fair. In 2016, Michael was selected to join the CFC/Entertainment One TV Adaptation Lab. Stay tuned for more soon.
Herder of four daughters, Michael lives to write in Ottawa where he was the Ottawa Public Library’s Writer in Residence and runs free writing workshops. To learn more about Michael and his next projects visit his website at http://www.michaelfstewart.com or connect via Twitter @MichaelFStewart.
©2018 V Williams