Thomas Hall's story means a lot to Merrill. "The best stories are the ones in which we can find ourselves; stories that take us somewhere. I believe, at some point, everyone must confront the ponderous questions of life: science, faith, evolution, creation and God. We wonder who we are, where we came from, if there is meaning in the universe and whether we survive the death of our brains."
Merrill hopes that taking the journey through these questions with Thomas Hall will help readers "broaden their perspective, open new windows, bolster their faith, even offer answers or help them discover things they have not known in their search for meaning."
Merrill has "always been fascinated with the collision of religion and science," just as he's always been interested in art, so combining these three elements in a story was a natural. "I come from a family where I'm the third or fourth generation of artist. I minored in art in college."
But, with the idea of actually getting a job, he majored in communication. His first job was in public relations, and on an early campaign, he persuaded the company to let him make a movie. "That led to making another movie in Australia, and I decided that was my life. I called my wife and told her to come down, and we'd go around the world. We'd better do it then, I told her, because life was about to change, and we might not be able to do it ever again."
It was a struggle at first, he admitted, "but after the Academy Award, all kinds of doors opened." Merrill had found his true vocation.
"I'm so right-brained that sometimes I think my left lobe is vacant," he joked. "Everything is so visual to me."
That is perhaps both a curse and blessing, he said. "To me, life is a movie. I'm always thinking about how it would play on the screen. When I read a book, it always unspools as a movie in my mind."
The ability to translate visual ideas to written words gives his writing a richness of detail, a clarity of setting that makes for enjoyable reading. But Merrill also wanted a story "with meat."
Hall's journey is not an easy one; he struggles like many others do. "It's not a religious book," he said. "It's not at all dogmatic."
There's humor, romance, conflict, history.
"But it poses fundamental questions that every human being at some point wrestles with," Merrill said. "The core message is simply this: If man in fact slithered out of a primordial mix, then nothing matters. But if you have an absolute belief in God and in purpose in the universe, then everything matters."
Merrill says he has "a profound belief in God," and he hopes that those who take the journey with Thomas Hall "come away with a sense of how miraculous life is; how the unanswered questions give us hope, not despair. How dismal it would be to live life with no expectations."
Kieth Merrill book signing
Where: Deseret Book, 1076 S. 750 East, Orem
When: Thursday, May 12, 5 p.m.
Where: Deseret Book, 45 W. South Temple
When: Friday, May 13, 11:30 a.m.
Where: Deseret Book, 1096 Layton Hills Mall, Layton
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