Davis Bunn has his weak points. Impostor, however engaging its premise, is full of incomplete sentences and murky solutions to the plot. I thought we were finally out of those days after reading Lion of Babylon's brilliant modern action. Here, I thought, Bunn has finally grown into his style. Rare Earth took a bit of a dip down again. Not as low as, say, Berlin Encounter, one of his earlier novels, but it didn't hold up to what I was expecting.
Why keep reading, you say?
All because of one book. His Christmas book. Tidings of Comfort and Joy.
Inklings here and there show me what he can really do, if only he wouldn't write for the publisher and the deadline. Stories must be grown, not churned out. Now don't get me wrong: I believe he has passion, dedication, and a true love for his craft; you can tell pretty quickly. But there's a missing link, and I haven't found it yet.
Anyway, enough mental ruminating. Here at least is one of his books that I recommend as a Christmas love story with an interesting twist.
Tidings of Comfort and Joy contains two parallel tales that take place decades apart. It starts with Marissa, a girl who's troubled with, an ailment that causes her to sleep for hours on end. She's staying with her grandmother for the Christmas holidays, and her family is taking a trip to Hawaii. Odd combination of events, but lest I take away the incentive to read the book, I will leave it shrouded in mystery for now. Needless to say, Marissa is bitter and angry, when she's even awake to think about anything.
Her grandmother tells her that if she'll grow up, then she can hear a Christmas tale that has everything to do with why she is sick. Marissa agrees, and Emily takes out a photograph of a handsome young airforce pilot, arm in arm with an adoring young girl.
The story starts out as a cliche. But as it continues, it's anything but.
The era is post-WWII, not long after the Armistice. Young Emily runs away from home to follow her young pilot to England. She tells all her coworkers that she's getting married, even though Grant never gave her that promise. When she arrives, she's sick with pneumonia, and she finds that Grant left with the news of her coming. Stranded and penniless, and having missed the first Christmas of her life, she decides to live in the apartment he left for her until she can find a way to get back home. Her landlady, old Rachel, tells her that she needs to keep herself busy to come to grips with her grief, and she agrees to help in an orphanage full of WWII refugee children. 300 orphans who don't know English, a lot of government tape, and very little food supplies. Along with Rachel and Colin, the vicar, Emily spreads tender hope and teaches the children that Christmas is not merely a date on the calendar, but a season of the heart.
It's impossible to describe this story without it's sounding a sappy shelf-filler. But it isn't. It's full of grace, and truth, and restoration. And the moral stretches far beyond the finding of a spouse to the healing of broken relationships in any form.
Tidings of Comfort and Joy...if you have a quiet Christmas to look forward to, then find this book and curl up with it. It's like a fleece blanket for the soul.
This short novella encompasses many enjoyable elements: historical setting, a grandmother connecting with a granddaughter, and a love story that's not stickily sweet or plain unrealistic. Remember our series earlier this year on "Is Love a Fancy or a Feeling?" (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) Well, Tidings of Comfort And Joy illustrates the fact that there can be stories dedicated to a couple falling in love, that are still good and worthwhile to read. After all, it's not the falling in love that's wrong--it's how they do it. Between Grant and--well, let's admit it--Colin, we see the textbook example of the two concepts I tried to illustrate in my original articles. In fact, they illustrate it so well, that you would almost think it was fiction.
As far as Emily and Marrissa's relationship goes, most granddaughters would love to have the kind of bond that causes their grandmother to tell them stories of her past. The beautiful thing about Emily and Marissa is that Emily isn't telling a bedtime story to a little girl. She's calling out Marissa's womanhood, not with threats or cajoling, but with trust. Most teens will respond in kind if they are given a trust to keep. All in all, the only thing I didn't like in this book came when Emily offered to tell Marissa her story. She made her promise not to tell anyone. Emily said that she thought even Marissa's mother didn't know the whole story. But, while I'm not excusing this thread, it's a small element that, when carefully rejected as the wrong behavior, doesn't have a lot of bearing on the rest of the tale.
By far, what most drew me to this book was the quiet moments. The moments when Emily is feeling her pain, and someone stops to put an arm around her. I have lost the quotes I wrote down, but when I get the book again I shall find them and copy them. They are wise words about how to heal when you've been hurt by someone you love.
The best thing about this book: even though it had a predictable ending, the ending came in an quietly unpredictable way. That first moonlight kiss that you expect in such stories--never came. Marissa didn't receive a Christmas miracle of feeling "all better" by the time the story ended. She's still sick, and she's going to be for a long time. Even the bits that are cliche remind us that in spite of our skepticism, God still does work miracles, and some plots do turn out happily-ever-after in reality.
A modern Christmas novella that deserves your attention. I think you'll enjoy as much as I did.
"Let me start by telling you the reason I have decided to share the secret with you. It is because I, too, have lost a Christmas. My story really begins four days before the Christmas that never was."
~ Tidings of Comfort and Joy