Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
This week, as we slip deeper into the coziness of Christmas, each of us at Books & Such will post about our favorite Christmas novel or novella.
My mind immediately turns to Robin Jones Gunn’s Finding Father Christmas novella. A snippet of a book, it’s a hardback, making it feel luxurious to hold as one sits by a blazing fire. It would be appropriate to sip a cuppa because the story takes place in England, where a cold winter snap has settled in.
American Miranda Carson is on a trek, following a few dim clues, to try to find the father she never met–and whose name she doesn’t know. She has a photo of children posing with Father Christmas that includes the name of a photography studio in an English village on the back but not much else to go on.
Miranda finds a family to belong to in that village–at least for Christmas. It’s not her family, just people who are loving and open-hearted. Their close bonds stand in sharp contrast to her years growing up with a traveling minstral of a mother, with whom Miranda celebrated Christmas in inexpensive hotel rooms.
The reader soon connects with that desire to be among loved ones, to be invited in out of the cold. As the Spirit of Christmas Present proclaims in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, “Come in! Come in and know me better.” Father Christmas echoes that sentiment a number of times in this novella, and I found myself wanting to respond to that invitation.
Finding Father Christmas enfolds the reader with the tender sense of finding home and all the warmth, love, ease and rest that come with it. Not that the book is all sweetness and light. Miranda must make the difficult choice of tucking in her heart her father’s identity or revealing it and thereby hurting others.
The writing in Finding Father Christmas pleased me as much as the story. Robin embroiders rich images throughout the book that made me want to read passages over and over again. The novella satisfied me on several levels.
Writing tip: Stretch yourself to find new ways to work with old ideas. Robin used the concept of Father Christmas as a metaphor for the longing for a father.
Also, she found new ways to express ideas we often read about in fiction. For example, Robin writes about a tense conversation in this way: “Margaret gripped the arms of her chair and stared at me without blinking. Her words came across the table like flat stones thrown into a still pond. Each word caused a ripple. Together they disrupted the entire ecosystem. ‘Eve Carson was your mother?'”
Care to share a passage from a Christmas piece of fiction you love?