I just finished reading A Winter Dream by Richard Paul Evans. I picked this book up just before Christmas and thought I'd read it Christmas week. Well, that didn't happen. I debated with myself whether or not to go ahead and read it this week or to hold it until next Christmas. It isn't a Christmas book per se, but it does have a lovely Christmas tree on the cover and I just couldn't get past that bit of Christmasy-ness. I finally decided that it wasn't too late to read it even if it did turn out to have a Christmas orientation. I'm glad I went ahead and read it!
I've never read anything by Evans but A Winter Dream really hit the spot for me as a thoughtful bit of January reading. The story is a modern re-telling of the Biblical story of Joseph. For those not familiar with Bible stories, it is the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors found in the book of Genesis. Joseph, in both renditions, is a dreamer ... a dreamer both literally and figuratively. The modern day Joseph is an ad man working with his eleven brothers for their father's very successful ad firm in Denver, Colorado. Like the story in Genesis, Joseph is wronged by his brothers and finds himself in a "foreign land." Instead of ending up in Egypt, this Joseph ends up in Chicago working his way up the ranks of a very prosperous transnational ad firm. Yes, there is even a "Potiphar's wife" in this re-telling. I don't want to say too much else about the storyline, but it does indeed follow the outline of the Biblical story. I often dislike Bible story re-tellings or analogies, but Evans handled this incredibly well, following a faithful storyline without being twee.
I particularly like the sense of endings and new beginnings that comes out in A Winter Dream. This made my choice to read it in early January a happy accident. Lessons learned, triumph through adversity, and forgiveness play very large in this story for the ages. It will make you think about your own life and the choices you make every day about how you will respond to circumstances. Each chapter of the book includes an entry from Joseph's diary that not only introduces the chapter but presents the reader with something to consider. For instance:
"I have wondered why it is that our greatest triumphs spring from our greatest extremity and adversity. Perhaps it is because we are so resistant to change, we only move when our seat becomes too hot to occupy."
As someone who does not like change, this spoke to me. I hope to remember it when I am forced from complacency by the hot seat.
I will leave you with the letter written to a young Joseph, before his trials, by his father:
"... always remember that --
Adversity is not a detour. It is part of the path.
You will encounter obstacles. You will make mistakes. Be grateful for both. Your obstacles and mistakes will be your greatest teachers. And the only way to not make mistakes in this life is to do nothing, which is the biggest mistake of all.
Your challenges, if you'll let them, will become your greatest allies. Mountains can crush or raise you, depending on which side of the mountain you choose to stand on. All history bears out that the great, those who have changed the world, have all suffered great challenges. And, more times than not, it's precisely those challenges that, in God's time, lead to triumph.
Abhor victimhood. Denounce entitlement. Neither are gifts, rather cages to damn the soul. Everyone who has walked this earth is a victim of injustice. Everyone.
Most of all, do not be too quick to denounce your sufferings. The difficult road you are called to walk may, in fact, be your only path to success."
It is true too that such advice can not be fully appreciated from the front end of life, but is more often a comforting reflection as we look back.