This book was my sister's choice for our personal book club during December - something light and fun to fit in between shopping trips, baking cookies and addressing cards. And that's all I was expecting - just another Christmas-themed story with a string of calamities, a little holiday magic and everyone lives happily ever after. But I got a little gift in this unusual twist on the Christmas novella.
First we have the "church ladies" who insist that the Christmas Tea be hosted just as it always has, nothing can change; and then there are the young mothers who want to change everything. Anyone who has ever been involved in a church of any denomination knows these women! But Marianne takes her responsibility as Hospitality Chairman seriously and searches for the true meaning: service.
On the family front, her picture-perfect Christmas vision is falling apart as, one after another, her children announce that they won't be able to make it for Christmas. I am the Queen of the Norman Rockwell Fantasy - and the fact that they never work out as envisioned doesn't deter me from trying again. So I really connected with Marianne on this issue:
"I realized I needed to surrender. No more perfect Christmases. it was over, the season when my children would join me to chop down our tree, decorate it with oohs and aahs. The precious Christmas Eve dinners by candlelight, when we told each other the gifts we'd give to the Baby Jesus. The magic when they'd arise from their beds, surprise in their eyes as they opened their stockings. Over. I'd had my mom season. And now, it was just me and my fake tree and a really big turkey."There are several other favorite quotes that I would like to share with you, but I don't want to ruin the ending. I will tell you that I cried through the last two chapters, and I'll share part of Marianne's response when she's asked, if she had it to do again, would she raise five children:
Would I do the chaos, the late night feedings, the challenge and worries? Would I do the book reports and the piles of laundry and the illnesses? Would I let them take over my heart so that when they grew up and left home, it created this hollow space that seemed cavernous?But you have to read the book to learn the rest.