One of the indulgences that I give myself at this time of year is reading Christmas themed books. Many of the titles I normally choose are Christmas themed mysteries, it seems odd but there is an oddly right juxtaposition about the mixing of the most joyous time of year and the darkest of human emotions. My other choices are somewhat more sentimental and act as a reminder that even in this occasionally dark and cynical world, goodness shines through.
Over the last few Christmas’, I have looked forward to a yearly book by author Donna VanLiere, who has the ability to mix a heartfelt story of kindness while still feeling contemporary and humourous. Last year’s offering, “The Christmas Town” is a great example of her work. The book begins with Lauren Gabriel having a bad day at work and taking a drive to clear her head. Without thinking she finds herself in the small neighbouring town of Grandon and witnesses an accident. Rather than not getting involved Lauren calls the authorities and tries to comfort the accident victim. This simple everyday occurrence finds her getting drawn ever deeper into the lives of the people of Grandon. Her developing strength, gives her the courage to advertise for what she has always wanted, a family at Christmas.
VanLiere gives many of the residents of Grandon a voice and while Lauren is the main character of the piece, the most moving character is Ben. Ben is the local bag boy at Grandon’s supermarket and a fixture in town for putting a little note in each of the bags he packs. Each note is hand written and selected for the recipient for Ben though is slower mentally than most due to a medical condition, he is blessed with a huge heart and the ability to see the good in everyone. Lauren and Ben are in many ways polar opposites; Lauren is shut down emotionally while Ben is open and caring, Ben is surrounding by a loving family while Lauren is almost alone in the world.
If you are looking for a reminder of the true meaning of Christmas, pick up a Donna VanLiere novel and watch the whole world seem brighter.