The Final Summit (the contuing story that begun in Andy Andrews' blockbuster, The Traveler’s Gift ) takes readers on an imaginative ride through history as David Ponder and his team of history’s greatest seek to solve civilization’s most pressing challenge. Once again, in the hands of the gifted storyteller Andy Andrews, famous leaders throughout civilization become fully human and relatable and David Ponder (Andrews’ everyday hero), leads us on a path to understanding.
Encouragement for those stuck in “intermission”
Ponder, Andrews’ very ordinary lead character, is probably the reason The Traveler’s Gift struck such a chord with readers. Like so many of Andrews’ audience, our hero is in the “second act” of his life and trying to discern meaning and purpose. In the first novel, and succinctly summarized in the first chapter of The Final Summit, Ponder’s life begins to spiral out of control after a corporate firing, leading to a supernatural journey where he meets seven remarkable figures in history and is given the “Seven Decisions.” In this second novel, Ponder loses the one thing that gave his life meaning above all else. Ellen, his beloved wife and companion of 49 years, dies and David finds himself again “stuck in intermission,” unable to move into the next phase of his life. Life changes suddenly, though, when David is again chosen to represent the human race — not because he is extraordinary, but because he is in fact quite ordinary.
Like Ponder, Andrews’ readers have often gone through similar intermissions or valleys in their lives and Andrews has tremendous compassion for people at those crossroads.
“I want to encourage people with these stories,” he says. “I have been there myself and have a lot of friends who have been through these valleys. It took me years, but it’s amazing to finally begin to understand the obvious: God’s principles always work — and they work whether you know them or not. I like to present these often overlooked and forgotten principles in such a way as to help people discern God’s calling on their lives.”
Those in later stages of life who feel like most of life is behind them, with little promise for the future, will appreciate the wise words given by Joan of Arc in response to Ponder’s question, “What is the proof of hope?” Joan responds: “That you breathe... if you are still alive, that means you haven’t accomplished what you were placed on earth to do...If the most important part of your life is in the future, then it doesn’t matter how old you are or how sick you are. It doesn’t matter how fearful or depressed you might feel or how penniless you might be. By virtue of the fact that you still draw breath, there is more to come. There is more laughter and learning...more victories. There is more.”
Not only will these principles bring hope, but they can expand our thinking to “what if?” “I talk to people all the time who don’t know what to do with their lives,” says Andrews. “I’m convinced that it isn’t money or time that we are lacking, just ideas. I recently read a fact: Google, Apple and Amazon all started in someone’s home garage! As a society, we put people on the moon before we had even thought of putting wheels on luggage, and we developed nuclear fusion before peanut butter and chocolate. We need to get out of our box and ask ‘what if?’”
Curiosity with a purpose
It is the “what ifs’ Andrews ponders that make his books so distinctive — and enjoyable. To read The Final Summit is to feel like an invited guest to one of history’s most interesting dinner conversations. Any story that includes Mother Teresa, Louis Armstrong, Fred Rogers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr., and Charles Dickens engaging in conversation is a unique story indeed.
Andrews credits a natural curiosity for such remarkable settings, but says it wasn’t until later in life that he found a real use for it. “I read biographies and I have often thought, ‘if I could have a dinner party tonight, who would I invite to dinner from history? What wisdom might they impart to me?’” He pauses and adds, “Curiosity is a gift, but too many are curious for curiosity’s sake. Curiosity can be a way of worshipping the Lord, honoring your parents, encouraging your children, earning a living. There are so many things to be in awe of: to look at a broad view of the ocean, but also to get down and look at a close view of the wet sand on the ocean’s edge.
“We see what we intend to see,” Andrews explains. “If we ask ‘what if?’ our vision becomes much broader, but still focused.” A story from his own life illustrates his point. “My boys are 8 and 11. Not too long ago, on a car trip, they were whining and complaining. I asked them to sit up and tell me everything they could see outside that was yellow. They told me the sign, the curb, the lady’s umbrella, the flower. ‘Now close your eyes,’ I said, ‘and tell me everything you saw that was red.’ They were silent. ‘You see,’ I offered, when you were looking for yellow, you didn’t see anything that was red. We passed a red fire station, the sign on Sam’s Stop and Shop. Many things were red, but you were looking for yellow.’”
Andrews admits, “It has taken me 50 years to learn this, but it can be learned so quickly. We see what we choose to see. You can choose to look at the impossibilities or the possibilities. God has a vision for our lives, but we have to determine what we are going to look at.”
Above all, just a good story
Andy Andrews’ books are greatly loved, not only by avid readers, but also by those who consider themselves “non-readers.” A remarkable compliment to Andrews’ ability to make history come alive, people who would never pick up a history book will devour an Andy Andrews book in one sitting. For Andrews, it all comes down to telling a good story.
“Everybody likes to read in some form — whether it’s magazines, websites or newspapers,” he comments. “It’s just that in a longer form, they haven’t found something that interests them. I like to tell stories, and stories capture people’s imaginations.”
The Final Summit, for instance, includes the fascinating story of a courageous soldier and spy from World War II who, though largely unrecognized and unnoticed, had a significant impact on the course of the war and modern civilization. When asked how he digs up these stories, Andrews responds, “I love finding things. I read a lot of odd history and I pull at threads. When I hear someone say something like ‘if it wasn’t for that guy,’ I want to know more about him. I find the fascinating little story inside a larger story and I love to throw these odd things into my books.”
If we were all alike
For Andrews, focusing on essential principles and character traits of great leadership allows him to draw from a wide variety of leaders — not just ones who look like you’d expect. What his leaders do share is moral strength and strong character—but they vary greatly in regard to culture, color, gender or politics. In the book, the great council that Gabriel assembles includes everyone from revolutionaries and radicals to conservative statesmen, from introspective poets to colorful musicians and athletes, from protestant reformers to social justice crusaders, from passionate evangelists to learned scientists. Why the wide variety?
“In America today,” Andrews begins, “we have become a meaner society. It is ‘us’ or ‘them.’ I have two little boys, and little boys fight. Our society is a macrocosm of two little boys. But I am not an ‘us’ or ‘them,’ I am a ‘we.’ Now I could let my boys lead separate lives as they have two very different personalities. But instead, I tell them about the great brothers in history who were so different but did so much good. My stories do this same thing by showing that strong values can come from diverse personalities and perspectives.” He pauses and adds with a wink in his voice, “You know, if we were all alike, some of us would be unnecessary.”
The Final Summit recognizes and celebrates that, thankfully, we are not all alike. But, gratefully, the foundational principles that God has given us work as well for David Ponder and “everyman” as they do for history’s greatest leaders. When this great council of gifted men and women has been assembled to “reset the compass and right the ship” for civilization, it is these simple principles, applied by each person individually, that offer the greatest hope for all of us. The Final Summit is a story told with compassion, a good dose of curiosity, and a commitment to God’s principles widely applied. And for everyman Andy Andrews, that is exactly the kind of story he wants his life to tell.
For more articles featuring Andy Andrews, click here.