By: J. Shep
Publisher: Christopher Whisperings
Publication Date: November 17, 2023
Reviewed by: Katie Specht
From author J. Shep comes a story of one man’s rather unexpected and tumultuous journey to his retirement, entitled The December Issue. Shep’s story chronicles how our protagonist, Paul Scrivensby, does not find retiring as easy as he expected it to be.
Paul Scrivensby worked as a columnist for the magazine "The Current Front" for 45 years. Shep’s story opens with Paul having completed his second to last column, eagerly looking forward to leisurely days of retirement and spending time with his wife, three children, and grandchildren. However, the first indication that retirement is not going to come as easily as he expected is when Paul’s editor-in-chief, Stephen, presents Paul with two filled, heaping mailbags of letters all written in response to Paul’s latest column. Paul mistakenly assumes the letters are fond farewells, when in fact, many of the letters are quite critical of Paul’s column written on the decline of class. Stephen presents Paul with an option to rewrite his final column, to be printed in the December issue, as an apology to anyone he may have inadvertently offended. Paul, while somewhat aghast that Stephen is even asking this of him, simply tells Stephen that he will consider it.
Paul then heads home to Saint Catherine’s Cove to be with his family, and this is where more events transpire that Paul never could have expected or predicted. Lucretia, an old friend of Paul’s, suffers a heart attack and while driving to the hospital to visit her, Paul and his friend Oliver are in a car accident. Paul and Oliver walk away with minor injuries, leaving Paul to wear a sling on his arm for bone contusions. At a press conference held at the hospital, a journalist named Ted Handly creates controversy by referring to Paul’s priest, Father Soplido, using derogatory, ethnic slurs. This prompts Paul to feel responsible since Father Soplido was only at the hospital to pray over him and for his healing. As if Paul didn’t currently have enough problematic situations to deal with, his grandson Mikey then gets suspended from college. Because Mikey’s father is overseas and unable to be reached, Paul drives to the college immediately to assist his grandson however he can. Amidst all of this, Paul also discovers that an old classmate of his named Derek Braynard has been holding a grudge against him for the past 50 years, which presents itself on more than one occasion before the story concludes. While Paul was certainly not expecting any of these events to kick off his retirement, they all show him what he is capable of, as well as enlighten him to the strong support system that he has present in his life.
Shep has created characters that are easily relatable and just as easy to love and root for throughout the course of the story. While the unexpected events kept happening to Paul, I found myself really feeling sorry for the man. He had worked diligently as a journalist for 45 years to provide for his family, and now all he wanted to do was quietly retire so he could spend time with his wife, children, and grandchildren. Yet, it seemed like retirement was an elusive dream that kept slipping away from him as the story progressed. Just as easily as it was to develop a fondness for Paul, Shep did a superb job of developing Derek’s character to ensure that readers would detest this man. Derek was malicious, vindictive, angry and jealous.
Quill says: Shep has authored a unique and fascinating novel with The December Issue. On its surface, it is the story of one man’s journey to retirement, but upon closer reflection, this book is about so much more. It is the story of friendship, family, perseverance, honor, humility, love, and finding joy in the everyday.