THE FIVE WISHES OF MR. MURRAY McBRIDE has a unique and somewhat corny cast of characters—Mr. McBride himself is a one-hundred-year-old man who has the heart of a fifty-year-old thanks to his former career as a Major League baseball star. He is recovering from the death of his wife, which occurred a little over a year before the story starts, and regrets not spending enough time with his children or grandchildren when he was younger. Much of Mr. McBride’s dialogue—and thought process—involves indignation about the way kids talk these days, or bewilderment about various types of technology.
In an attempt to find a reason to stay alive, he visits a children’s hospital and meets a ten-year-old boy with a dysfunctional heart—who’s only given six months to live. With a renewed spirit, Murray McBride decides to help the boy accomplish everything on his list of wishes to accomplish before he dies, from kissing a girl to scoring a home run at a major league baseball stadium.
Jason Cashman, the ten-year-old boy with a failing heart, is video game-obsessed and uses almost exclusively LOL-speak; the tension between Mr. McBride’s way of speaking and Jason’s slang becomes repetitive fast. However, there are moments where Jason stops saying “schweetness” and becomes grave, asking Murray McBride if he’s afraid of death and if he thinks it will hurt to die. This juxtaposition is a powerful one: at most times in the book Jason is rambunctious, immature, and happy, which makes the moments when he uses his oxygen mask or asks questions about death that much more powerful. Though the characters can be exaggerated at times, their personalities are so vibrant that it is impossible to not feel for them.
The way the wishes are fulfilled seem convenient, or questionable, or at times illegal, but that shows the unpredictability of life—for better or for worse—and the lengths Murray McBride goes to in order to achieve the dreams of a dying child. But it also shows the lack of care they had for those who still have to live: Jason achieves his first kiss without the girl’s consent, and the two run off together without first alerting Jason’s parents, which results in a missing person report. Readers may question whether this is a critique of the idea of wish fulfillment at the expense of others or a statement about last wishes for the dying transcending the will of the living, but the fact that they may think about it long after the book is over is a triumph of THE FIVE WISHES OF MR. MURRAY McBRIDE.
~Jess Costello for IndieReader