After the death of his mother, Michael Keddington finds employment at the Arcadia nursing home where he befriends Esther, a reclusive but beautiful elderly woman who lives in mourning for her youth and lost love.
Michael faces his own challenges when he loses his greatest love, Faye. When Michael is falsely accused of abusing one of the Arcadia's residents, he learns important lessons about faith and forgiveness from Ester -- and her gift to him of a locket, once symbolic of one person's missed opportuninites, becomes another's second chance.
Richard Paul Evans, author of the beloved #1 bestselling classic The Christmas Box, begins a wonderful new series with this stunning New York Times bestseller -- a bittersweet reminder of life's most precious gifts....
About the Author
Hometown:Salt Lake City, Utah
Date of Birth:October 11, 1962
Place of Birth:Salt Lake City, Utah
Education:B.A., University of Utah, 1984
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One: Betheltown
Bethel, Utah. April 2, 1989
As the desert blurred past in the luminous hues impressionist's palette, Faye huddled tightly against the car door, her eyes closed and her coffee hair spilling over her face. The last of the music, frayed tones from a hayseed country station, had miles back degenerated into a storm of static, and now the only noises were the car's undulations over the primitive road and the occasional sigh of my sleeping companion. We had already traveled fifty miles past the last evidence of humanity, a rancher's lodgepole-pine fence, into the desert's blanched, stubbled plain, and Faye had not yet asked where it was that I was taking her. Her faith in our journey was not unlike her faith in our courtship, attributable only to some godlike quality of the female mystique -- an unwavering virtue of hope and patience -- that, if unable to predict our
destination, found merit at least in the journey.
I had never been to this corner of the earth -- only eight months previously, I hadn't even known of its existence -- but the stories I had heard of the dead town had given it meaning, and I confess anxiety at its approach. I was told
that the town, steeped in the foothills of the Oquirrh range, was constantly assailed by mountain winds. But there was no wind that day, and the spray of red dust in the car's wake hung in the placid air, liberated from a roadway not trespassed for a year's time.
I was glad for this day, for its blanched, cloudless skies, for though I embraced the land's immense solitude -- felt akin to it -- it would be foolhardy to venture so far from civilization with the possibility of becoming stranded on washed-out roads. Flash floods were common in these regions, and most of the ghost town's abandoned mines had decades earlier collapsed under their turbulent runoff. The wash of such cataclysm was a souvenir hunter's ecstasy of relics and coins and an occasional grain of gold. It had always been such with the town, as men came to take from the land or to take from those who had come to take from it, and even in death it was so.
Only, today, I had not come to take but to impart.
Before us the coarse road crested, then dipped into a barren creek bed surrounded by the pink clusters of spring beauties and the scattered stalks of bulrush that proved the creek still possessed occasional life. At the creek's shallow bank I left the car idling and walked to the rill and placed a hand to its stony bed. There was no trace of moisture. I examined our intended route, rolled back a single stone of possible hazard, then returned to the car and traversed the bed. A half mile forward, the timber skeleton of a gold mine's stamp mill rose from a mesquite-covered knoll -- a wood-tarred contrivance of rusted wheels and cogs and corroded steel tracks over which ore cars had once rolled and men and horses had sweat. I glanced down to a crudely drawn map, astonished that after all these years, and with a dying memory, Esther had remembered such landmarks so distinctly. I wondered if she had just never left.
At the mill's passing I turned west and coaxed my Datsun up the hill, where the road vanished into a buckwheat-dotted plain that spread infinitely to the north and south and climbed the foothills of the mountain into the town itself. As we neared the decrepit structures of the once-flourishing township, Faye's eyes opened and she slid up in her seat.
"Where are we?"
Faye gazed on in apparent fascination. "...what's left of it."
We passed the ornamental iron fence of a cemetery "Welcome to Bethel -- the House of God."
"This is where Esther was born?"
"She came here as a young woman." I looked out at the desolate terrain. "Makes you wonder why anyone would come here."
Faye turned to me. "Why are we here?"
"To fulfill a promise."
Faye leaned back in her seat, momentarily content with my ambiguity.
I parked the car under the gnarled limbs of a black locust tree near the center of the deceased town and shut off the engine.
The morning's drive had taken nearly two hours, but it was the conclusion of a much greater journey, one that had taken nearly half a year. A journey that began the day my mother died.
Copyright © 1998 by Richard Paul Evans
Table of Contents
two The Arcadia
four La Caille
five Faye's Acceptance
Seven The Committee
eight The Christmas Social
nine The Doctor's Threat
ten The Dilemma
eleven Christmas Eve
twelve Paradise Lost
thirteen A Drawer of Letters
sixteen The Departure
seventeen Auld Lang Syne
eighteen Second Chances
nineteen Winter in Arcadia
twenty Ogden's Finest
twenty-one The Nightmare
twenty-two The Aftermath
twenty-three A Second Visit
twenty-four The Womb
twenty-five The Plea
twenty-six The Trial
twenty-seven A Last Good-Bye
twenty-eight Father's Letter
twenty-nine Closing Arguments
thirty The Verdict
thirty-one Esther's Room
thirty-two The Locket
On Wednesday, December 2nd, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Richard Paul Evans to discuss THE LOCKET and ^%=ucase(title2)%^.
Moderator: Thank you for joining us tonight, Richard Paul Evans. I understand you are touring now for your new books, THE LOCKET and THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE. How is your tour going?
Richard Paul Evans: It is grueling and wonderful. The response at book signings has been as big as I have ever had, and in most cases, bigger.
Claire from Reno, TX: You weave many stories into this book. What voice did you start with in your head?
Richard Paul Evans: Good question. I wrote from Michael's perspective, and Michael views the world in much the same way I personally view the world. His interaction with the elderly woman Esther is taken from several experiences I have had with the elderly in nursing homes.
Maxime Rogers from Richmond, VA: I have heard there is a personal inspiration behind all of your books, starting with THE CHRISTMAS BOX. What is the inspiration behind THE LOCKET?
Richard Paul Evans: The most dominant inspiration was my desire to shed light on many of the injustices that the elderly in our society face. There are two true stories that I drew from: The first is my grandfather's love story, mirrored in the love story of Esther and Thomas. When my grandmother died three years ago, a woman came into my grandfather's life, this 90-year-old woman who was his high school sweetheart. We learned that when they were young and in their teens they were madly in love and hoped to marry. But when my grandfather left on a church mission, after several years she married someone else. My grandfather returned and was heartbroken and eventually married my grandmother. This woman unfortunately had married an abusive man, and after several years she fled her marriage, and realizing she still loved my grandfather came back to him. Finding that he was already married, she decided that rather than interfere that she would wait. So this woman waited 70 years for my grandfather, during which time she wrote love letters and poems that she never mailed but kept in a box. Shortly after my grandmother died, she arrived literally with a box of letters. The second story had to do with a friend of mine that was falsely accused of abusing a resident in a nursing home and the forces that came against him -- not concerned with the crime, only with finding someone to blame.
Jonathan from Seattle, WA: I read that you self-published before you hit it big, as it were. What was your secret of success? What kind of advice would you give a writer who has done nothing but self-publish?
Richard Paul Evans: That is hard. The most important thing is to make sure you have the right work. THE CHRISTMAS BOX was able to succeed because of the powerful word of mouth. Every time someone bought a book they would usually return to the bookstore and buy five or six copies the next day. Notwithstanding, it takes a good deal of promotion to compete with the 100,000-plus titles in most bookstores. So if you have determined that you have something that people really want and not just something you hope they want, then work as hard as you can in seeking media and setting up book signings to tell as many people as you can about your book. It is also important to start locally rather than regionally, as it is better in the publishing world to be a big fish in a small pond than the reverse. Good luck!
Sarah from Denver, CO: In THE LOCKET, you touch on the subject of elder abuse in nursing homes. How pervasive do you believe this problem is, and what got you interested in the subject?
Richard Paul Evans: I believe there is less abuse today in nursing homes than there was ten years ago because of the regulations and laws that went into effect in the '80s. This is the good news. The bad news is that we as a society have done very little to change our perception of the elderly. I believe this is a disgrace to our society and something that other cultures define as a weakness of the American culture. Why am I concerned? It is relevant to me because I believe ultimately that society is best judged by how we treat those on the fringes, the most helpless in our society.
Nancy from Minneapolis, MN: What inspired you to put up the Christmas Box Angel statue? I think it is such a wonderful gift to grieving families. Are there plans for more of these statues?
Richard Paul Evans: When THE CHRISTMAS BOX became a local bestseller, I learned that many people were searching the Salt Lake cemetery for the Angel statue. I further learned that many of those people had lost children and wanted a place to go to grieve and heal. The original Angel statue mentioned in my book was destroyed more than a decade ago, so I took my initial profits and rebuilt it for those in need, including my mother, who had no place to go to grieve my stillborn sister. The Angel statue idea is now spreading throughout the country, and there are currently 23 other proposed sites outside of Salt Lake City.
Mark from Brooklyn, NY: Your children's book is really beautiful. I especially love the illustrations. Do you think you will continue to write children's books? How did the experience compare to writing adult fiction?
Richard Paul Evans: THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE actually began as an adult fable written for TV Guide. I allowed it to be adapted for children in order to raise money for the homes we are building for abused children. I have already written one other children's book, which will be released in the fall of '99. It is called THE DANCE. All of my proceeds from my children's books go to help abused and neglected children. I agree with you that Jacob Collins's illustrations are stunning and perhaps among the greatest artwork ever created for a children's book.
Pat from Marlboro, MA: What to you is the most important element of a good story?
Richard Paul Evans: The story line. Without a powerful, enticing story to entertain and drive your readers, character development and prose become superfluous.
Greg from Pittsburgh, PA: Did you spend some time in nursing homes when you were writing THE LOCKET? What do you think can be done to improve our nursing homes today? My mother recently joined a retirement community, and I am already displeased by their services.
Richard Paul Evans: A portion of THE LOCKET was actually written in a nursing home. I believe the most important thing we can do to improve our nursing homes are to carefully watch over our loved ones who are in them and to be very vocal about their treatment. The squeaky wheelchair gets the grease, so to speak. The care facilities that house the lonely seem to be the ones most likely to be later found abusing or neglecting their residents. So personal involvement is the key.
Mike P. from Sudbury, MA: What to you is the most important part of Christmas? Do you think people lose the spirit of Christmas by getting too wrapped up in the materialistic side of the holiday?
Richard Paul Evans: I worry more about our misuse of time, perhaps, than materialism. Christmas, I believe as Dickens once said, is the time to view our fellow men for who they truly are -- fellow passengers to the grave. It is, to me, the opening of our hearts to fellow strangers with Christmas cheer that makes the season magical. I also believe that traditions are vital in each of our lives, and Christmas is the perfect time to create them.
Valerie from Shaker Heights, OH: What did you think about the CBS movie of THE CHRISTMAS BOX?
Richard Paul Evans: I liked the movie. I thought it was beautifully produced, though there were definitely some changes made that I would have rather not seen. It is difficult as an author to see someone change your works, and in some cases your intent.
Betsy Jenkins from Williamsburg, VA: You describe Michael and Esther's friendship really beautifully. Are you close to an older person yourself? What do you see as the greatest benefits of establishing relationships with the elderly? What do we lose if we don't?
Richard Paul Evans: When I was 16 I was assigned by my high school sociology teacher to adopt a grandmother at a nursing home. The woman assigned me, Lucille, barely knew that I was in the room with her. After a few visits I tried to get out of the assignment, asking my teacher, Whats the point? She wisely told me to keep going back until I learned what that point was. I soon learned that I was Lucille's only visitor, and though she never learned my name she began to act differently whenever I came. I did not realize at that time that I was going through the greater change, as I learned patience and compassion for this woman. After the assignment ended, I continued to visit this woman, until one day I arrived to find her room empty. A nurse told me that Lucille had died. I was saddened that I never said goodbye. I never went back to that nursing home. That is, until I wrote THE LOCKET, when I found myself sitting on the bed talking to this elderly woman.
Marcia Brach from Birmingham, AL: How long does it take you to write your books? Do you do a lot of revisions? Your prose seems effortless!
Richard Paul Evans: [laughs] I rewrite constantly until I feel every line in the book supports every other line. I read once that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote THE GREAT GATSBY 29 times. I once thought that was incredible until I realized that I probably have done close to the same with several of my books. P.S. I love Birmingham.
Michael Sharkly from Louisville, KY: You have been called the King of Christmas Fiction. Will you continue to write books with Christmas themes?
Richard Paul Evans: Simon & Schuster, my publisher, has a new motto: Richard Paul Evans -- He is not just for Christmas anymore! THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE is the first story I have written about Christmas since THE CHRISTMAS BOX. I never intended to be a Christmas author, but my readers expect my books at that time of year so, I will continue to release around Christmas no matter the subject matter.
email@example.com from xx: Mr. Evans, do you know if there are any plans to make a movie out of THE LOCKET?
Richard Paul Evans: Three studios were bidding for THE LOCKET the day it was released. Hallmark Hall of Fame won the auction. We expect it to be produced next year sometime.
Mark from Trenton, NJ: It says in your bio that you were once an award-winning clay animator. Can you tell us a little bit about this experience? What exactly did you do?
Richard Paul Evans: I owned a small advertising firm, and in the light of the great success of the California Raisins, I began as a hobby learning how to animate clay. Several clients saw my work and asked if I would produce TV commercials for them. Then unexpectedly Dentsu of Tokyo, the largest ad agency in the world, saw some of my work and hired me to do a series of five commercials. One thing we are currently considering with my new book THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE is to produce a clay animation for television -- hopefully to join the other animation specials that pop up this time each year.
Missy from Greensburg, PA: I loved Esther's diary entries at the start of each chapter. What a nice touch. When did you decide to include these? Did you write them after you had finished the story line?
Richard Paul Evans: The diary entries is a device I created in my second book, TIMEPIECE. I could not decide whether to write in first or third person and decided to do both by writing third person and then getting into my characters' heads with their diary entries. The diary entries for many of my readers are their favorite parts of the book, so I have included this device in every book since and plan to in my next as well. People sometimes ask if I would be willing to publish Esther's diary, not realizing that I wrote those entries as well as the rest of the book.
Hannah from Blacksburg, VA: Your books have been so successful and obviously have been hitting a chord with a lot of people. I love them.... What do you see as the universal message behind your books? Did you think everyone would "get it" the way they have?
Richard Paul Evans: THE CHRISTMAS BOX was such a personal expression I did not believe anyone outside of me would care about it. It was an important lesson. I learned that I do not know how to write a bestseller, I only know how to write what is enjoyable and important to me. It is hopeful to me that so many around the world feel the same way about their family and loved ones.
Barbara from Vermont: Have you ever given a locket to someone as a gift? What inspired you to incorporate the necklace into this story? I love your books, Mr. Evans. Best of luck!
Richard Paul Evans: The first present I ever gave a girlfriend was a locket. When I finished writing THE LOCKET, I gave one to my wife. The locket was an appropriate symbol to me because it is more than jewelry. It is something in which we hold a loved one close to ourselves.
Greta from Baltimore, MD: What are your plans for the future, Mr. Evans? Keep writing!
Richard Paul Evans: THE LOCKET is the first book of a new series. I have already started the next book. About the gold camp where Esther came from, called Betheltown.
Elise from New York: You founded an organization, The Christmas Box International. What does this organization do? Do the proceeds of your new book go to it? How can we get more info about it?
Richard Paul Evans: The Christmas Box House International is an organization I founded dedicated to building shelter/assessment facilities for abused and neglected children. Our primary objective is to lessen the trauma children face when taken from their homes, to take away as much pain as we can (physical and emotional) and provide better matches in foster homes. All of the proceeds from my childrens book as well as from my book signings go to this organization. For more information, you may contact my web site at: www.thechristmasbox.com.
Moderator: Thank you, Richard Paul Evans! Best of luck with both THE LOCKET and THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE. Do you have any closing comments for the online audience?
Richard Paul Evans: I appreciate your joining me today. It you would like to know more about any of the things we have discussed tonight, including the Angel statue, the December 6th ceremony, or any of my books, please contact my web site at www.thechristmasbox.com. Have a very nice Christmas.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
After reading 'The Christmas Box', I couldn't wait to get another book from Richard Paul Evans. I picked up 'The Locket'. I already knew how my life can be affected by the elderly, I was a caretaker for an eldely man who recently passed away. I learned so much from him and spent everday with him for the past couple of years, (but knew him all my life since I was a little girl.)I still don't know how to live life w/out him but my time spent w/him was unforgettable. He touched my heart and life so much. In 'The Locket', I feel like Michael felt the same way I did, and I know he made Esthers remaining days-happy ones, like I did.
After already reading 'The Christmas Box', I read 'The Locket' and was once again touched by Evans' heartfelt storytelling. This book is filled with characters I became friends with, places I wanted to go and situations I could identify with. The story line keeps you reading until the surprising ending. This book wraps suspense, romance and friendship neatly around a good lesson in life.
This is a story about how love prevails against all odds and the importance of second chances. It was a enjoyable read and would recommend to anyone looking for a good love story.
This book is the first book that I've read that actually projected the reality of the circumstances that surround love. The story carried me from one page to another, at times wanting to stop because I was afraid I'd start crying and other times wanting to continue for fear that I might miss something. Not a lot of books capture my interest so quickly but this love story full of truths and revelations took me by the hand and lead me through an adventurous trek in Michael Kendington's shoes. I will never forget about how throughout the whole book it gave incredible examples of the whole Macbeth theme of 'fair is foul and foul is fair'. I believe that it may not be the author's intention but it has given me great insight on how literature is at it's finest.
I bought this book looking for something to do while we drove across country on vacation. I had never heard of this author. I was pleasantly surprised at the treasure I had found. It is about listening to others experiences and learning from their mistakes. No matter what our age we have something to give to other generations. I can't wait to get another one of Richard Paul Evans books.
I enjoyed this book all the way from the first page to the last. I recommend it to those who want a love story and love second chances.
I discovered Richard Paul Evans' books late this year, this is the fifth book by him that I read, and it is just as touching as the rest have been. Michael is such a well textured character. He's inspirational, highly developed, true and one to which the reader can relate in some way no matter what. The story is deeply moving and romantic, but it never leaves the side of reality nor goes off in a tangent that leaves you thinking sappy thoughts or rolling your eyes. For anyone who has ever known a great love, wished for one or witnessed it, this is a book you should not miss. If for no other reason, the tale should be read in order to lift the heart.
I have never been a reader but had to go to the library to make copies...saw this book, checked it out and was absolutely amazed! I read it in 2 days (for a non reader- i think that's fast). I laughed, cried and just really connected with the story! I can't wait to read 'The Christmas Box'.