By Ekta R. Garg
November 17/18, 2015
Genre: Christian fiction
Rated: Borrow it
When a man gets the opportunity to alter his present by visiting his past through his dreams, he jumps at the chance to fix the errors he’s made in life. Despite his best intentions, however, situations become more complicated, and the man will need to make everything right again or risk losing those he loves most. Author James L. Rubart offers readers interested in faith-based fiction this plot that melds The Time Traveler’s Wife and A Christmas Carol in his new book The Five Times I Met Myself.
Brock Matthews runs Black Fedora, a highly successful Seattle coffee company. On the outside Brock’s life looks perfect: a beautiful home, a supportive wife, and a company he runs with his brother. Brock knows the truth, however. His relationship with his wife, Karissa, began eroding years earlier as Brock began devoting more and more time to Black Fedora. He and his son, Tyson, acknowledge one another as residents of the same home and nothing more. He and his brother, Ron, engage in a daily battle of one-upping each other.
Because their father granted Ron 51 percent ownership in the company, Ron takes the business. He reminds Brock to stay in his place as the marketing expert. Brock struggles with his brother’s leadership, which becomes even more apparent when they discover someone has cleaned out the company’s funds. Ron and Brock need to make a decision, and quick, to sell the company to an investor or risk losing everything they’ve spent years building.
In the midst of all this tension, Brock has begun dreaming of his father. His relationship with his dad has always floundered; in his childhood his father always favored Ron. The dreams, then, don’t make sense to Brock, especially considering that his father is making overt efforts at reconciliation in those dreams.
After consulting a close friend Brock decides to try lucid dreaming, in which the brain remains aware during a dream in the hopes of learning more. But Brock doesn’t just learn more about the dreams; he finds out he can meet and counsel his younger self to make different choices. Every time he wakes from the dreams, though, his present life becomes even more complicated from the new choices his younger self made. Through all of the challenges and the choices he makes in his dreams, Brock must grapple with his faith and how far it can carry him if he will ever restore any of the relationships in his life and bring Black Fedora back from the brink of bankruptcy.
Author James L. Rubart makes no apologies for Brock’s faith or the fact that his faith plays a decisive role in his life. This confidence in Brock anchors the story. Readers—especially those looking for faith-based novels—will feel comforted by how often Brock seeks God’s help and mercy.
Unfortunately Rubart’s book suffers from the same tropes that many faith-based novels do. Characters often fill an “either/or” role, falling under the categories of good or bad. His characters, as a result, come across as flat. The story, too, travels well-worn paths of challenges to faith and personal beliefs. Rubart doesn’t really surprise his readers, which may lead many readers to believe they’ve read this book before. The elements that surprised and engaged readers in The Time Traveler’s Wife or the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol don’t appear quite as convincingly here. Also, Rubart’s tendency to tell rather than show his story results in narratives that plod along in parts.
Despite the title, because there are no visual markers or cues to keep track, readers may feel like Brock indulges in the dream option to fix his life more than five times. Short of marking every single dream encounter with sticky notes, bookmarks, or one’s fingers, readers will probably lose track of whether Brock does, indeed, meet himself five times or more. With such a strongly worded title, Rubart would have done well to offer readers some clever tool to keep track of those “five times” Brock meets himself.
Given the parameters of the genre, however, for the most part Rubart offers readers a fairly enjoyable book. In the end Brock’s affirmations about God and faith will certainly encourage those readers looking for it. I recommend readers Borrow The Five Times I Met Myself.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)