The Importance of Now by Paul Schumacher narrates the chaotic life of the protagonist, Shawn Stevens, who is haunted by his past. He harbors complex feelings towards his deceased father and his stint in juvenile detention for a crime he committed following his father’s death. The story is touching and heartfelt and a reminder that family relationships are rarely easy or simple.
Schumacher, tells the story from multiple points of view in both the past and present, as indicated by the Chapter’s titles. Therefore, readers will be able to follow the strong, diverse characters from multiple generations. The author’s ability to structure the storyline in this complex way is evident in his successful, multi-layered parallel and entwined plots.
Aiden, aged thirteen, speaks in the first person to welcome the reader into his chaotic and troubled world. He is typical of many young teens who want to know about their personal history. Especially since he has never known his father, and his loving and caring mother seems to be hiding secrets disguised as the truth. Not receiving the answer, he wants from his mother, he hides in the attic to scrounge through discarded memories looking for clues about his father’s existence.
Chapter Two introduces 18-year-old Shawn fourteen years earlier. His story is also told in first person as he reluctantly tries to reintegrate himself into his hometown after spending several years in a home for delinquent boys. Shawn reaches out to the pastor of his family church and is shocked that the pastor wants him to mentor four quirky fourteen-year-old boys. The challenge of dealing with these boys shatters his beliefs in himself. Shawn thinks the boys are not getting any of the lessons he’s supposed to teach, but he is learning more about himself in the process.
The reader is returned to the present. Aiden has discovered a packet of letters and papers referring to his deceased father that his mother has kept hidden. The plot now alternates between backstories told through the letters and Aiden’s responses. Mom Grace’s reminiscing is “an entire reel of memories.” Grace provides the catalyst that ties the generational stories together.
Schumacher grasps the unique personalities and eccentricities of pre-teen boys. He enables his readers to empathize and sympathize with his characters. The boys’ true-to-life emotions and antics will elicit both tears and laughter.
As Shawn learns to own his past, he meets and becomes enamored with Grace, who is Aiden’s mother. Their love story is not typical, but full of hope and crazy romantic. Christian morals are skillfully incorporated into Shawn’s life as he learns about honesty versus forgiveness.
In conclusion, both Aiden and Shawn deal with learning from the past, each wondering how and why he was stuck in the present and what the future would hold.
Even young readers who have not lost a parent will be encouraged by this book. Many coming of age situations are skillfully and honestly portrayed by the knowledgeable author.