When Josh McCain’s father dies, it is expected that the young man will inherit his father’s fortune, thus continuing his shallow lifestyle. The righteous, self-made millionaire, however, has something else in mind for his entitled, self-indulgent son. In the opening pages of Benjamin Laskin’s The Will, readers see how cocky and superficial Josh’s life of luxury has made him. But we also get a glimpse of his intuitiveness and go-getter spirit, which, until this point in his life, have gone unutilized.
This untapped potential is soon put to the test when his apartment, car, and pretty much everything else that his father footed the bill for over the years is taken away. And in order to secure his inheritance, Josh must complete a two-year to-do list that was compiled by his late father before his passing. And if he doesn’t, his conniving, ungrateful aunt Brooke gets everything.
Completing the list will require a complete turn-around for the Bruce Wayne-like playboy—minus, of course, the Batman alter-ego. Some of the seemingly impossible tasks include: running a five-minute mile, taking up a faith of his choice, learning a musical instrument (and playing it in front of an audience), learning a foreign language, cooking a five-course meal, and climbing Mount Katahdin. The list also requires that he abstain from sex. This proves to be even more difficult when Josh meets Maggie, a nurse and the potential love of his life.
In the beginning, it’s easy to get the sense that our hero is a Ragged Dick-type character, a slacker saved by the concept of personal responsibility and hard work—because we all know that hard work automatically leads to financial success, right?
Josh, however, doesn’t toot a Puritan work ethic. And Laskin doesn’t rail against “hand-outs” while promoting an Objectivist philosophy like Ayn Rand would. While Josh uses this truly unique situation to enrich his life, literally and metaphorically, he is still lazy, like most of us. And that’s what makes him relatable. That’s what makes us root for him every step of the way. His journey, which is filled with lovable characters, is cliché at times. But the novel has an undeniable charm that readers can’t deny. After finishing it, you probably won’t be inspired to climb a mountain or memorize famous poems that no one has ever read. You might, though, ask about the little things that you really want out of life—just like Taylor McCain wanted his son to do.