SheppoReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Gary Sturm’s The Shepherd of Destiny has the best tag line I’ve come across in a while: He searched for the “perfect” woman. Unfortunately, he found her. Once I read that, I got chills and I had to know more. Continuing on with the description on the back of the book, I learned that the main character, Danny Loveless, is contentedly married and has a child—and then one day they simply vanish. What is happening to Danny, and who is the mysterious time traveler who tells him that his destiny, Keiko, waits for him in Japan? I couldn’t wait to find out the answers to those questions and more.

The Shepherd of Destiny was such a refreshing read for me in so many ways; not only did it take me out of my comfort zone (I mostly read YA fiction), but it also had me in deep thought over serious issues like religion, God, mental illness, and even true love. Danny Loveless is not exactly the sort of protagonist that most readers will root for or even connect with, but the strong story line and supporting characters like Byron Shepherd and Anne Kessler (one of Danny’s lovers) who cared for Danny kept me invested in his story.

Danny and Anne are brought together by a religious leader named Burton Rheinstein, whose theology removes God from the equation and promotes people as their own lords. Danny, who is caught up in the idea that he must find Keiko, has a fleeting affair with Anne. She is a good woman, but she is not “The One.” She appears a few times throughout Danny’s story, and I enjoyed all of her conversations with Danny. Byron Shepherd is an eccentric sort of character; is he real or not real? If he’s not real, then Danny has an incredible imagination. Shepherd provides some serious comic relief for a story that is sometimes very dark and depressing.

Throughout the course of the novel, readers see how Danny becomes so consumed with the idea of a perfect love. I was holding my breath, waiting for that moment when he would finally meet Keiko. His reaction to her was not at all what I expected, and challenged my own beliefs on the idea of true love. But at this time in his life, Danny had seemed to lose all purpose for himself as well. Does our place in our lives at one moment in time truly affect our ability to connect with someone who may be our perfect match, or do we simply build up the idea of a perfect love too highly that we cannot help but be disappointed?

The Shepherd of Destiny is either a love story that transcends time, or it is the descent of a man who has lost everything and is slowly losing himself to madness. I think this book would make a great read for book clubs; it would be fun to see how each person in your group interprets the book. At the very least, it is a book that will stay with its readers long after they’ve read the last page. As for me, I almost started it over from the beginning because this is the type of book that deserves to be read more than once to fully take in all that it offers.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Gary Sturm. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.