Thanksgiving at the Inn is a wonderful, heart-warming book that is appropriate for the whole family. This book makes a great read-aloud book for everyone to enjoy together or a read-alone book for upper elementary children, teens, and adults. Tim Whitney has set the standard high with the character development, plot, and inspiration found in this first novel.
As the story opens, we are introduced to Heath Wellington III, a young boy who has just been wrongfully suspended from school. Junior, Heath's dad, battles with alcoholism and a failing career as a writer. The story unfolds as Heath and his father begin their journey to Massachusetts to attend the funeral of Heath's grandfather's, a man that everyone refers to as Senior.
Upon reaching Massachusetts, father and son find that they are about to inherit more money than they have ever had, especially since Heath's mom left them. There is only one catch. Junior and Heath must first return to Junior's boyhood home, which Senior has since transformed into a bed and breakfast. They must act as caretakers for the house and its residents for three months, at which time the residents will vote as to whether the father and son will be entitled to their inheritance.
Forgiveness and the ability to heal from broken dreams and relationships become the theme of the book. Can Heath escape the cynicism that is becoming a part of his life? Can he begin to dream of a happy family and a future filled with hope? Will Junior be able to forgive--both Senior and himself?
Thanksgiving at the Inn provided our family lots of opportunity to discuss what true forgiveness is. What does it mean to forgive oneself? Even more fundamental were our discussions about whether the changes seen in the characters of this story are truly possible apart from the mercy and love of Jesus Christ. Whitney does not bring the Christian faith into his story in a prevalent way. There are times when prayer is mentioned and one's submission to God are alluded to, but the spiritual development of the characters is not a focal point of the story. So the question remains--can the transformations that are seen in the lives of the main characters last apart from the power and strength of Jesus Christ in their lives? The story ends with a warm and fuzzy feeling, but as I dwelt on the absence of Jesus Christ, I started realizing that the changes seen in the main characters would lose their staying power.
All in all, Thanksgiving at the Inn was a good read with an enticing story line. There are a few instances where Junior uses slight profanities in his speech. I believe that Whitney uses this to express the gruff and profane reality of alcoholism. It is not excessive but should be kept in mind as you share this book with your children. We all want to cheer on Heath and Junior. How much greater would the cheering be if their accomplishments could have greater endurance through the Savior that turns all our weaknesses into strengths through his grace and mercy!