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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia

These days, I don't get much chance to read for pleasure. As a wanna-be-writer, that is probably a bad thing. I used to think that because I am writing a novel, I shouldn't read any fiction lest it somehow color my own work and mysteriously cause me to plagiarize. But now I think that reading other stories broadens my outlook and strengthens my imagination. We'll see.

The full title of the book I just finished reading is Golf's Sacred Journey - Seven Days at the Links of Utopia. Which, of course, is a mouthful; but describes much about the story. David L. Cook's tale begins with a professional golfer in one of his first big tournaments. I don't think that the book ever actually reveals the young man's name since it is written from his point of view. In any case, life isn't going very well for the young man. He flames out in spectacular fashion on the tournament's last day and drives off into the west Texas middle-of-nowhere landscape like Rebecca fleeing Manderly.

His life is shattered; his self worth, having been all bound up in his ability to play golf, has just been rendered worthless. His heart, his psyche, his very soul, are all in tatters as he blindly drives in an effort to escape the humiliation.

Utopia, Texas is a real place and, in the book, is where the young man finds his hole to hide in, and also where he makes life's greatest discovery.

                                    I haven't seen the movie...

There is nothing that says folksy Texan like Robert Duval. Thankfully, I didn't even know there was a movie when my boss loaned me the book to read. It took me a couple of weeks to finish Seven Days at the Links of Utopia, mostly because I could only get to it in bits and snatches.

Nothing against Mr. Duval - and I might even watch the movie now - but I'm glad I didn't know about it ahead of time. Johnny, Duval's character and the man in the story who becomes the young golfer's unsought mentor, is a character best left to our imaginations.

The seven days our protagonist spends in Utopia change his life forever. I'm not going to tell you how, exactly, because I don't want to spoil it for you. Suffice it to say he is not the same man when he leaves. Seven Days at the Links of Utopia is a psychological pick-me up for every golfer - or any athlete for that matter - that has ever struggled with the game (and who hasn't?). It's an introspective look at our insides - what makes us tick - and for many of us I imagine what we find is every bit as unsightly as the young golfer who has stumbled upon this place called Utopia.

But the greatest lesson this book shares is one that has eternal consequences. And that makes every minute you spend reading this book important.

In the interest of fair play - and so this review doesn't sound like a commercial for the book and movie - there are a few things that have tarnished my experience. One, after reading the epilogue, I went to a website dedicated to the Seven Days concept. I discovered the movie, of course. But I also discovered that you can join the author on your very own Utopia retreat and experience some of what the young golfer lived in the book. You can also get on board with the radical new putting technique that is used to such great effect in the story. There is a Seven Days gift shop where you can buy all sorts of Seven Days-themed golf merchandise.

It all seemed a little too commercial for me after coming out at the end of the book with a great feeling that the story was one which revealed a lasting truth that all of us need to hear.

I'm not saying don't read the book - quite the opposite. I heartily recommend you read Seven Days at the Links of Utopia. But read the book before you watch the movie or browse the website. Let the story envelope you and I hope you will find the simple pleasure of a well-crafted tale, just like I did. And after you read it, I'd be happy to talk about it with you after we bury some lies.


Author's note: This review is based on a completely unsolicited experience from my reading of this book. Although I was loaned the book to read, I did not receive it from Dr. Cook or any of his representatives.

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