Gary D. Schmidt is not writing good books – he is writing good literature. ”Okay for Now” is secretly a rich love story disguised as a narrative for young adults. In fact, this one shouldn’t be limited to just YA. The local Barnes and Noble made it their pick because the manager there loved it. In my opinion everyone should read more YA; the YA novels are rich! Every time I read a novel written for adults I go screaming back to the YA stuff.
I would just like to go on record as saying Schmidt is absolutely the best at bringing characters to life. He is the master of the writing rule “show don’t tell”. Doug Swieteck’s mom, especially, is never analyzed in the novel, yet you know her. Your heart breaks for her. She never says it but you feel her strength and true love for her family. “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)
And make sure you read the opening dedication to Schmidt’s wife, Anne. I am certain that the end of the book, especially, is really a love letter to her. According to this 2006 article in “The Calvin Spark” Gary himself is a cancer survivor.
Around this time, Schmidt also experienced a miracle of another kind. “It was 10 years ago — ’96, I guess. I had gone to the doctor and they had said infection, infection. And they had given me some medication which helped a little bit,” Schmidt recalled. “I was actually in the lab theater, and I was watching the mystery plays, and suddenly I knew this was a lot more than an infection.” It was lymphatic cancer.
“You hear all the percentages, and they’re not fun to hear,” he continued. The routine of chemotherapy helped him beat the disease, though, and provided him with manifold sources of inspiration: his fellow patients. “Maybe that’s why today in my job, I cannot stand whining or fussing,” he said. “I mean these were people who were going to die. They were hooked up to machines with stuff oozing out of them, and I never, never once heard them complain or fuss.”
So, Gary, you didn’t make me love drawing. I confess I skimmed those parts of the book; regardless I will never look at an Audubon again without seeing it as Doug did. But knowing that you, Gary, fought cancer tells me that the ending of the book was clearly personal. It didn’t make me cry, it made me weep. It was a love story much deeper than the book itself. I finished the book and immediately went and kissed my husband. That’s okay for now…but the real love is in the trusting, hoping and persevering, isn’t it?