“Rubart will leave readers inspired . . .” —Publishers Weekly STARRED review for The Long Journey to Jake Palmer
What if You Woke up One Morning and the Darkest Parts of Yourself Were Gone?
Toren Daniels vanished eight months back, and his wife and kids have moved on—with more than a little relief. Toren was a good man but carried a raging temper that often exploded without warning. So when he shows up on their doorstep out of the blue, they’re shocked to see him alive. But more shocked to see he’s changed. Radically.
His anger is gone. He’s oddly patient. Kind. Fun. The man he always wanted to be. Toren has no clue where he’s been but knows he’s been utterly transformed. He focuses on three things: Finding out where he’s been. Finding out how it happened. And winning back his family.
But then shards of his old self start to rise from deep inside—like the man kicked out of the NFL for his fury—and Toren must face the supreme battle of his life.
In this fresh take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, James L. Rubart explores the war between the good and evil within each of us—and one man’s only chance to overcome the greatest divide of the soul.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Sold by:||HarperCollins Publishing|
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Read an Excerpt
Toren Daniels rolled over in bed and light pierced his closed eyelids, which meant five a.m. had come and gone. Which meant Quinn was already at the gym, into his third set. Which meant Toren would be buying lunch at the end of the week. And Quinn ate like a whale when he was training heavy. Toren groaned. He'd set two alarms on his phone and still overslept. Not good.
Toren opened his eyes for a second, then immediately closed them against the sunshine, far too bright. His head. Yeah, he'd been pushing his conditioning hard for the past seven weeks, but the haze swirling through his mind along with the dull ache that pressed in from all angles in his skull didn't feel like the usual day after hard sprints and heavy weights. It felt like the day six years back, the only time he'd ever been rip-roaring drunk, after he'd made the team and all the vets forced Toren and the rest of the rookies to drink far past a rational level. At least he hadn't puked. Right now? Same feeling. And his stomach might win this time. What was wrong with him?
He lay still, head on the pillow, eyes closed. Took in a deep breath, a vain attempt to clear his senses. Didn't help. He ignored the pain in his head. He had to ping Quinn, apologize for blowing the workout. Toren covered his eyes with one hand and with his other reached for his cell phone, which he always placed in the same spot on his nightstand, a few inches from the edge, a few inches from the front. His fingers searched the smooth surface of the wood in widening circles. He blew out a sigh of exasperation, turned his head to the side, and opened his eyes again. The phone wasn't anywhere on his nightstand.
Worse, this was not his nightstand. Toren's heart hammered.
He twisted and clutched a handful of the white sheets on the king-size mattress, blinking. Except for three pillows lumped up against the headboard, the bed was empty. His wife wasn't there. His heart pumped. This wasn't their bed, their room. The increased pulse brought a new level of throbbing to his brain.
Toren did a slow half-circle spin until he sat upright on the edge of the bed, still squinting against the light. Why was it taking his eyes so long to adjust? He blinked and rubbed his eyes as he took in the room. A hotel room. Why? It made no sense. He'd gone to bed last night at home after a movie night with the kids, Sloane next to him, his alarm set for four forty.
Toren staggered to his feet and wobbled over to the bathroom door. "Sloane?"
No response. Toren pushed open the door. No lights. No Sloane standing under a rainfall of steaming water. He was alone.
His pulse increased as his gaze swept the room and spotted nothing familiar except a pair of Nike sweats and a Seattle Seahawks T-shirt lying over the back of the overstuffed chair next to the window. Toren slipped on the sweats but hesitated with the shirt. His old team. The one he wanted to rage against for releasing him — but the cutting truth was he'd pulled the pin on that grenade all by himself. Still, whoever was behind this had a distorted sense of humor.
A quick inspection of the room revealed no wallet, no cell phone, no keys, nothing. A TV. A coffeemaker. A clock that read eight thirty-nine. That was it. Toren strode over to the beige phone on the faux mahogany desk and stared at the name of the hotel stamped in tiny letters at the bottom of the keypad.
The Willows Lodge
Toren snatched the phone and pressed zero. The front desk picked up after one ring.
"Yes, Mr. Daniels, how can I help?"
"How did I get here?"
"Um, I'm not sure I understand the question."
"How did I get here?" Toren repeated. "And what am I doing here? I need answers. Now."
"I'm, uh, I don't know." The kid on the other end of the line sounded nervous.
"I go to sleep last night in my home and wake up twelve hours later feeling like I'm drugged, with nothing in the room except a pair of sweats and a T-shirt. That's a problem. Major problem."
"Yes, I can certainly see how that would be."
"I don't know why you're here, but —"
"Can you help me find out?"
"Yes. I'll do whatever I can."
"Thanks much, I appreciate that."
As the words slid off his tongue, an emotion hit Toren so hard he slumped into the chair. An overwhelming sense of patience. He should be freaking out, riding a wave of frustration and anger till he got an explanation for what was going on. It was there, but so deep he barely felt it. The overwhelming sensation was tranquility.
"Of course, sir. If I'd been here when you checked in last night, I might have an answer, but I wasn't. And there aren't any notes next to your entry in the computer. Would it be a problem if I put you on hold for a moment while I go find out what I can about your situation?"
"No, that's not a problem at all."
Light instrumental music drifted through the phone.
Toren puffed out a puzzled laugh. What had he just said? Not a problem all? It was a massive problem. He had no cell phone, no clothes, no wallet, no idea how he'd gotten to this hotel. And yet he felt no compulsion to raise his voice. He wasn't ticked off. Even mildly. The shortest fuse in the universe, his all-too-familiar companion, simply wasn't there. Yes, he'd been getting more control over his anger lately, but this was different. A complete serenity from no place he could fathom surrounded him like cool water on a blistering day.
As he waited for a response from the front desk, Toren wandered over to his window and stared out at two massive maple trees, thick with green. Not much longer. Another four weeks, six at most, and half the leaves would be on the ground. It would be three or four games into the season, and the odds said a few guys would be hurt. If God was still answering prayers, Toren would get a call from at least a few teams asking him to come try out.
He was ready. He'd stayed in shape, been working on his emotions. Mastering methods to keep himself in check. Succeeding. Definitely in public. And even with Sloane and the kids, he'd made some strides. Not nearly enough, usually just inches at a time, but he was trying.
"My apologies for the length of time it took to get you an answer."
There it was again. Patience. Then a peace that flooded his mind in a way he hadn't known in years. Not a quality anyone had accused him of having in abundance since he stopped playing ball.
"I checked with my manager, and there's a package here that we were instructed to deliver to your room as soon as you called us. Would it be okay if someone brought that up to you now?"
"More than okay. I'm grateful for the help."
Through the phone, Toren heard the concierge direct someone to bring the package.
"I followed your career at the University of Washington. You were one of the best defensive ends ever to play for the school. I played the same position in high school. I wasn't good enough to go on and play for a major college, or even a small college, but during high school you really inspired me. And I love that they used to call you Torenado at UW."
"Wow." Toren laughed. "Haven't heard that name in forever."
"It fit you like a custom-made glove. Powerful. Unstoppable."
"That's kind of you to say." Toren smiled. "Thank you."
"You're welcome, sir. And I'm sorry you didn't last longer in the pros. What they did was wrong."
No, it wasn't wrong. The Hawks had done the right thing. They'd given him multiple chances to keep his boat from sinking, but he kept punching holes in the hull till the whole thing went under.
"I appreciate you saying that, um ..."
"That package is on its way, sir."
"Not sir. Toren."
"Yes, sir ... Toren." A nervous laugh floated through the phone. "If you don't mind, can I ask you a question?"
"I don't want to pry — it's none of my business or anything."
"No, really, it's fine."
"Okay." Landry hesitated. "Where have you been, Mr. Daniels? I mean, my manager says we're not supposed to tell anyone you're here, like TV people or the radio or ... but a lot of people are curious, you know? And since we're talking, I just thought I'd ask. I won't tell anyone. I promise. But if I'm stepping over a line, please just tell me to keep my questions to myself."
"What? Who's curious? Tell anyone ... I have no idea ..." Toren squeezed his forehead. "What are you talking about?"
"I'm wondering where you've been for the past eight months."
A shiver shot through Toren's body. "I haven't been out much if that's what you mean. But I've been here in town. I've been working out, going to the gym, doing stuff with my wife and kids, that's about it. Staying around the house."
"Oh, I see."
But by the way Landry said it, his vision wasn't even close to clear.
"But when they ... Why didn't you let folks know after they started searching ... and ... I mean, it's just that ..."
Landry trailed off, and heat shot through Toren's body.
"Searching for what?"
"What are you talking about, Landry?" Toren paced on the dark-brown carpet. "What do you mean searching? Why would anyone be searching for me?"
Landry's voice sounded puzzled. "You vanished eight months ago. No one has seen you since."
"What are you talking about? I was at the Seafair Parade three weeks ago and saw a bunch of people. Took a few shots with people who recognized me."
A deep sigh came through the phone.
"I'm not sure how to say this, Mr. Daniels."
"Everyone thought you were dead, sir."
"Dead?" The heat pushed through Toren's skin and sweat broke out on his forehead. "Why would anyone —"
"It's been over eight months since Seafair," Landry said, his voice soft.
"Eight months. Are you all right, sir?"
"What are you talking — it's only mid-September." Toren stopped pacing and stood at the end of the bed.
"No, sir, it's not." Landry paused. "It's the middle of May."
Toren drew ragged breaths through his nose as he slumped onto the bed and braced himself with his free hand.
"Quinn put you up to this, didn't he?"
"No, this is —"
"Then who did?"
The question was stupid. No one had put Landry — or anyone else — up to anything. But that logic didn't help. It only made the growing fear in the pit of Toren's stomach more intense.
"Mr. Daniels, three guests just arrived. Can I put you on hold?"
A rap on the door jerked Toren around.
"Take care of your guests. The package just arrived."
Toren hung up and let the phone drop onto the bed. Eight months? Not possible. How could he have been gone for eight months and not known it? And if the impossible had happened, where had he been? Sweat now seeped, it seemed, from every pore in his body.
The sound of rapping on the door to the hallway filled the room a second time and Toren lurched to his feet. He stared at the door as he shuffled toward it, desperate to open the package and get answers, yet terrified at the same time.
Toren placed his hand on the knob, paused for a moment, then pulled the door open.
The young woman at the door handed him a brown package the length and width of a shoe box, but only a few inches high. "Is there anything else I can get you?"
"No, thanks for bringing this up."
"Yes, of course." She nodded and trekked back down the hallway.
Toren stared at the package as he meandered to the chair by the window and slowly sank into it. The package stayed on his knees for more than three minutes before he finally tore it open.
A folded sheet of paper lay on top. He lifted the paper and opened it as he examined the contents of the package. His driver's license. A credit card. Fifty dollars in cash. A small booklet of sorts with a blank cover. That was it. He pulled the sheet of paper closer. No company name. No address. No phone number. Just a piece of paper with a handwritten note on it. Toren sighed and began to read.
Hopefully as you read these words your breathing has returned to normal. Having been involved in numerous cases like yours for quite a few years now, we know this transition back into society isn't necessarily an easy one. But you will be fine. We promise.
You of course want to know where you've been and why you don't have any memories of your time away.
You've just completed eight months unlike anything you've ever experienced. A life-altering eight months. Consequently, you'll notice changes inside. Significant ones. Most notably, specific to your case, your struggle to control your temper will have been eradicated. Embrace that revolution. You have earned it. It did not come without cost, but that cost will give you a freedom you've never known until now.
To continue in that way of freedom, we highly encourage you to study the enclosed booklet. It will provide exercises to reinforce what has occurred, and keep you on the narrow path.
Now to practicalities: You'll find enclosed your driver's license and a credit card for anything you need, such as clothes, a cell phone, etc. Also you'll find a bit of cash. Your hotel room is taken care of for the next three weeks, should you choose to stay that long. A car has been rented for you for one week starting today. After that, you'll need to take care of transportation arrangements on your own. The hotel manager has the details and assured us he would be happy to deliver you to the rental lot.
Finally, you'll undoubtedly be anxious to return home and see your wife and children. We advise against this. Not only have you been through significant change, but they have been as well, due to your long, unexplained absence. We encourage you to get to know yourself, your new self as it were, for a few days, maybe a few weeks, before engaging with them. Give yourself time. Find out who you are now. Who the new man is that you have become. That will be best for all of you.
With deepest belief in the true you, Your friends
Toren pawed through the box, then pulled the thing apart, looking for any clues as to who had sent the package, but even as he did, he knew he'd find nothing. Whoever had done this to him hadn't provided any answers, only more questions. He pulled out the booklet, white, three inches by five inches, about sixteen pages, nothing on the front. He leafed through it. Meditation techniques, studies on maintaining calmness, prayers, spiritual disciplines. He tossed the booklet onto the ottoman and fell back in his chair. So he'd been to some kind of spiritual retreat center.
New man? Temper gone? That would be the greatest gift he'd ever received. As the thought rushed through his mind, hope filled his soul, because he knew it was true. But how? And where? Toren clenched his fists with determination. He'd go to the moon and back to get answers.
And he would get to know this new man, yes, but sorry, he wasn't going to put off racing to see his family. Were they kidding? Not even an All-Pro offensive line could stop him from getting to his wife and kids in record time. He had no idea what he would tell them, no idea how they would react, but he was going to see them. Now.
As Toren sped toward home, he marveled at how easily a spring day in mid-May could impersonate a sunny day in mid-September. Yes, now that he knew, he saw the differences, but they were subtle. More a feeling in the air than anything concrete. He had checked the date on a newspaper at the rental car lot three times.
Eight months. Gone. With no memory of those weeks. How was that even possible?
As he pulled onto the street that held his home, his hands grew damp. He remembered everything in detail up till September 14 of the previous year. Too much detail. The months leading up to another NFL season without him in it had been brutal.
And he'd taken out his frustration on Sloane. Wave after wave of fights, him losing his temper again and again, screaming at her, her finally screaming back, the kids hearing far more than they should, even when they were upstairs in their rooms. Then the apologies, his hard work to keep his rage in check, all for nothing when a few weeks or days later he'd blow the doors off whatever semblance of an emotionally safe home he'd built.
The counseling sessions? They always started out with hope and always ended with a rising crescendo of shouting. Too many times to count, Sloane had threatened to divorce him and he'd always talk her out of it.
Toren eased his car to a stop five yards from the entrance to his driveway, his fingers gripping and regripping the steering wheel. He'd pictured Sloane overjoyed to see him, but what if she wasn't? Toren pushed the gear shift into park as he stared at the driveway. Sloane loved the entrance to their home, long and accented with gentle curves.
Excerpted from "The Man He Never Was"
Copyright © 2018 James L. Rubart.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is the best book I've read in a very long time. Inspirational ... I've loved each of James' books; have become completely riveted each time I've read them ... And I've read them more than once. This is one of his best. But then, I've said that after reading each one! God has blessed this author with his writing style, and the way he portrays the Love of God to each one of his readers. Well done! Thank you.
Toren Daniels was in the process of re-conditioning. He was experiencing peace again, which wasn't what others had been seeing before he left playing in the Pros with the Seahawks. It had been eight months since he had gone missing, eight months! Where had he been? What was the letter referring to? The way to freedom, who sent the package? In his search for answers, Toren goes home to his wife, Sloane. What must she be thinking? What note did he write? How could she start a new life? How can he regain everyone's trust? Before getting together with Quinn, Toren would spend the hours in silence, prayer, and pondering the way his soul had been transformed. Once Sloane gets through the shock of Toren's sudden appearance, she knows to stay in the moment. A moment in which the children and her will need to trust in God's promises. After all of these months, she would have to deal with Toren's efforts to regain his way back into her life and the truth that her children deserved him in their lives. Quinn was his workout partner, his best friend since sixth grade. "To find true freedom, you must find true forgiveness." Seeing is believing. For now, Toren appears to have lost all of the rage that began eating up his self-control. It was great on the field, but eventually it cost his friend his career and family. All of the signs of Toren's Hulk/Frankenstein alter ego had not yet resurfaced. Maybe Toren has changed. Where has he been all of these months? Coach had always been a rock for Toren. Would he still be the one to help him regain his career? To help him navigate back to what was his best life on and off the field? Eden is the private eye that Sloane had used to track down where Toren had gone. Now that he has reappeared, Eden will be the one helping him navigate the leads of where he had been. Could Toren had been one those clients who had decided to try re-consolidation? A process in which certain brain receptors are neutralized. Dr. Ilsa Weber is the counselor who had helped Toren locate the center. Reconnecting with her should bring answers depending on how badly he will want to change. Yet, Toren must find his truth in order to defeat his deceivers. Could the truth be found on Friday Harbor? When Toren enters the hallway... Sorry, you must take the rest of this journey on your own... MrsK
I have just closed the last page on James L Rubart’s latest book The Man He Never Was and I can honestly say it is both a bizarre and amazing read which had places particularly through the middle had me questioning if I was actually going to finish this book or give up. Glad to report I didn’t give up on it and it’s highly satisfying conclusion was both nicely wrapped up but still thought provoking. In this unashamedly reimagining of The Curious case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Rubart brings us a tortured soul Toren Daniels. Missing presumed dead for eight months, he reappears but not as the same man he once was. With a marriage not he rocks, a temper you could fry an egg on for it’s heat and a family literally falling apart - it’s no wonder that his wife is skeptical of this supposed change. So what occurred during the missing 8 months and is the change really permanent. We join Toren as he embarks on a journey to put back those missing moments and ultimately face an enemy he never imagined in his wildest dreams he would ultimately have to stare down and defeat - the Mr Hyde in us all. I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher as part of the Thomas Nelson/ Zondervan Fiction Guild. I was not required to post a positive review and the views and opinions expressed are my own.