William Gladstone: The Twelve

by Rachel Baker on August 24, 2009

The Twelve by William Gladstone, due to hit the market in September, is a book about a man named Max and what might possibly happen on December 12, 2012 and how it will happen. Its not really clear what will happen in the book if Max doesn’t succeed in his mission, but my understanding is the world will be in very bad shape. Max, in the end, is the catalyst for how our world begins to heal, and the idea that the one thread that will accomplish that is the healing energy of Love.

Max grew up “different”. When he was very young he had a near death experience in which twelve names were given to him with associated colors in a vision. He has no real understanding of this vision, but he feels there must be some deeper meaning. It is eight years after graduating from Harvard and Yale before Max begins to randomly meet people from that vision.

The novel takes us on an exploratory journey to figure out how the twelve people from Max’s vision are related to each other, and to Max specifically. Developing an understanding of numerology, Max and several others realize the connection has to do with December 21, 2012 (12-21-12) and the global healing of the Earth. Max travels to the places that have special meaning with each of the twelve people from his vision. These visits infuse Max’s energy into the many places around the world and begins the healing process.

There were two ideas that came to mind while reading this book. I was reminded of the book The Celestine Prophecy, in which the main character undergoes a journey of spiritual awakening rooted in some Eastern Traditions. Much like the main character in the Celestine Prophecy, Max was undergoing a spiritual awakening of sorts that had to do with energy which ties us all together.

It wasn’t until the end that I felt there was a strong religious parallel. In the last few sections of The Twelve, one could make an argument for the book being about the Second Coming of Christ. Twelve people brought together by one which has enabled our collective conscious to connect, resulting in the spiritual healing of our world as we know it. Sounds like what one could say about the collective teachings of Jesus and the Disciples, to me.

The Twelve appears to be an interesting marriage between New Age thought and Christianity, in my humble opinion. On the one hand, I feel like just about all spiritual thought and most religious thought is rooted in the same ideas expressed in different ways. As an example, there’s no difference, in my mind, in what prayer should be and what mediation should be – striving for enlightenment and convening with what you believe is your higher power. So, to write a book that takes the New Age idea of energy connecting us all and the Religious idea that there is one man born to begin the process of healing the people and the world through Love is not unreasonable to me.

On the other hand, I foresee controversy stemming from people reading this book. I can’t help but think “wow, this book could have a big market in both New Age readers and Christian Fiction readers.” I think its a successful combination of thought by the author but was it written this way so it wouldn’t be pigeon-holed into just one genre? My concern is if this is in fact the reasoning, there are areas of the book, I feel could have been written more robustly. Max’s brother, as an example. He’s portrayed in some ways as the “anti-Christ” or “the devil,” if you will- put on this Earth to stop Max from completing his “mission”. I felt this particular character should have been given more time in the book. I guess I felt like Max’s brother was a thread that started to unravel but was never fully realized or tied up in the end. The book wasn’t told in the first person from Max’s perspective, so it wouldn’t have been unnatural to have more detailed insight into his brother’s thoughts and reasoning for why he hated Max. Using that as the example, the parallel to Christianity thought didn’t really come until the very end of the book – almost as an after thought in tying it all together to reach more readers.

Whether it was a marriage of two different ideologies from the very beginning or not, I felt the book lacking in some ways. The story was predictable in many ways, and there seemed to be plot detail missing. The story skipped years at a time in Max’s life – much like that guy in the bible who’s life we only have a select few years knowledge of to help us judge what type of guy he really was. I would have liked to have more of Max’s life, his brother’s life to help me really understand why he truly hated Max, and actually some of the other characters in the book. In fairness, I guess some of the ambiguity in the twelve’s lives were supposed to help us realize that random people thrown together can be very powerful if their energies are focused on one specific goal.

All that said, my hope for the author and The Twelve is that readers read this book with a open mind. I feel like this book is, in the most simplest of ways, about the possibility that maybe spirituality and religion is not as narrow as some people believe and that the only way to really start healing our world is to marry the various ideas together and see what comes out of it, using Love as the relative thread.

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