In his debut novel, Guiding Daniel, Rich Jackson explores the concepts of fame, spirituality, and destiny. It’s a brave project for a first time novelist, and Jackson succeeds for the most part. To say Daniel (Danny) Cagle is a gifted musician would be an understatement. He is a prolific talent that comes along but once in a generation. When he has a brief but intense affair with a girl from the local bar, Laura, their time together results in a son neither of them expected. But just as Danny’s star begins to rise, tragedy strikes leaving him to care for his son and his career, all while wondering what happened to the mother of his child.
Jackson’s characters are well thought out and fully realized, each with their own detailed backstory and unique spiritual perspective. None of the characters are what they first appear to be. The story itself includes many twists and turns. Events and characters are connected in surprising ways to explore the interconnectedness within the seeming randomness of life. Through the themes of the book, the reader definitely gets the sense that Jackson has some definite beliefs about spirituality and fate that he has put into his characters and their stories.
Guiding Daniel does feel a bit wordy at times, and probably would have benefited from an editor’s eye. Jackson describes it as “at heart murder mystery,” and on its face it would appear to be just that. But anyone looking for a typical who-done-it would be sorely disappointed. What comes across clearest are the themes of fame/celebrity, spirituality, and fate. Murder mysteries follow a rigid and distinct pattern, but Jackson’s work delivers a much larger commentary on society. Guiding Daniel would be an enjoyable reading experience for anyone interested in such ideas.
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