Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Wish

By Jake Smith
Tyndale House, 2014


James McConnell’s one wish is that his nine-year-old son will finally be healthy enough to play a game of catch. Then he and his wife, Emily, receive news they’ve dreaded: Aaron’s cancer has relapsed.

As the family steels themselves for a draining treatment regimen in yet another hospital, Aaron receives the gift of a lifetime—a personal visit from one of his favorite professional baseball players—and the chance to make a bold request, his wish: to see his dad play in one major league game.

A former college standout, James fears he doesn’t have the talent it takes, even for one game, and that he’ll miss what could be Aaron’s precious last weeks. Yet how can he refuse his dying son’s wish?

Poignant and triumphant, Wish is the story of a father’s love, a family’s perseverance, and the miracles that can happen when you believe in the impossible.

My thoughts

I have been drawn to Wish from the time I first saw its cover several months ago, and while it is an entertaining work of fiction, it is so much more. Wish a story of family, of caring and sacrifice, of many people coming together to help in time of great need. It's very real, poignant, touching, heartwarming, and motivational. The cover makes you think this is about baseball, but it's really a story about the long journey of one special family, set against the backdrop of the professional baseball world.

At the heart of the story is nine-year-old Aaron, who is beginning treatment after his cancer has relapsed - and anyone who has loved, taken care of, and sacrificed for a child diagnosed with a serious illness  can relate to Aaron and his parents. The outcome is not guaranteed, worries are real, emotions are raw, yet Wish is an inspiring story filled with hope and triumph.

Jake is a talented writer and has done his research well. In fact, I find it hard to believe that he has not experienced what he writes about, at least in some form. His description of the hospital where Aaron receives treatment, a state-of-the-art children's hospital and research center in Michigan, is fascinating.

James, Aaron's dad, clings to his faith, but still finds himself drawn into the dark world of The Place . . .

The Place was a cell. A prison echoing one powerful, spiteful word:  why? . . . When James couldn't fight the situation with stubbornness, he wallowed in The Place. The Place where pictures of life without his son filled the walls. The Place where he sat in the corner wondering what he could've done differently. The Place where he grew old staring out a smudged window, imagining who his little boy would have become had his life not been stolen.

None of us can say how we would handle a similar situation without having experienced it, but if my child were critically ill, I can totally see myself wallowing in The Place.


Wish:  to feel or express a strong desire or hope
for something that is not easily attainable

How Aaron's "wish" to see his dad play in a professional baseball game comes about is highly entertaining - from the inner workings of baseball clubs, to the humble pro athlete who quietly uses his "celebrity" to help sick children, to the awesome night game itself. This whole book is a reminder that God heals - sometimes in life and sometimes on the other side - but He heals. Sometimes miraculously, but often through the skilled hands of the medical professionals, and sometimes simply through the willingness of ordinary people to be used.

I think the phrase "fiction with a mission" perfectly describes Wish, for there is a bigger purpose behind this book. Jake writes in the acknowledgements at the end that the story's real mission is "the care of those in hospitals right now and those who anxiously wait to receive word that there's a bone marrow match and a donor ready to give."

So for me, Wish is Christian fiction that entertains and engages the emotions, while inspiring readers to some kind of action at the same time. These words of Aaron's parents point the way for all of us:  "We can sit on the sidelines and let this cancer tell us how to act - or we can move forward with life and living."

I am so glad the people at Tyndale believed in Jake's book and hope we see more from him soon. This is a story that sports fans will obviously enjoy, but I believe it will appeal to all readers, as I loved it even though I don't care much for professional sports. Wish is a great debut for Jake Smith. Highly recommended.

Wish can be purchased at Amazon, CBD, DeeperShopping, and B&N.

Jake Smith

Jake Smith is an author and magazine editor who lives in Traverse City, Michigan, with his wife, Vickie, their three children, and a Labrador retriever. A former assistant high school baseball coach and All-State shortstop, Jake now spends his time on the field helping coach his kids’ youth baseball teams. Wish is Jake’s debut novel, and he hopes it will help support children’s hospitals, patient and family foundations, and participation in the National Marrow Donor Program.

Meet Jake online at, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Goodreads.

Thank you to Tyndale House for providing an electronic copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful review! This really sounds like a interesting book! =)

    1. Thank you, Melissa! I hope you get to read it, I think it's one you would find very moving.

  2. Carole I don't think I have read a more powerful review anywhere. The way you talked about this book really made me crave to read it. You are an exceptional reviewer and I am adding this book to my TBR pile. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Wanda, I hardly know what to say, except thank you. This book called to me when I first saw the cover reveal last November, and Jake would probably tell you that I bugged him about wanting to read it! Relationship drama is my favorite genre - and then being a father/son story about leukemia. As good as the story is, there's a deeper message here and I want to do all I can to call attention to it. Thanks so much for sharing, Wanda.

  3. I love books like this also. I read The Gift of Love by Amy Clipston. That was also a powerful book about her husband's kidney disease and Amy going through the kidney exchange program. It was very good. To Know You by Shannon Ethridge was such a great book about her son having a liver disease and she is on a journey to find the two daughters she adopted out and reconcile in order to save her son's life. You would really love that one. I'm really looking forward to this one. Now I just need to find the free time to read it. LOL

    1. Wanda, I just noticed that I never responded to your comment. I've heard about Amy and the kidney exchange program and would love to read her book. And I think I had the chance to review To Know You, but was hesitant for some reason and let the opportunity slip by. I'll watch for it to come on sale. Thanks for telling me about these books, Wanda.

  4. It was a good review that made me want to read the book!

    1. Thank you, stonecipher! Comments like yours make doing book reviews worthwhile. I hope you'll come back this week for Jake's interview and giveaway.