Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Working Retreat–Angel’s Camp, Calif.
Our assignment this week was to choose our favorite Christmas novel (or novella). Hmmm. I’ve loved Christmas short stories and books ever since my days as a preteen when I would eagerly await the December issue of Good Housekeeping magazine in order to read the Christmas fiction. But to pick a favorite. . .
Many Christmas stories are like candy canes. They melt in your mouth, leave a lingering freshness but are soon forgotten. I’ve read several novellas like that recently. Others, like O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi have become part of the fabric of Christmas.
But favorite(s): I read Anne Perry’s Christmas novel each year. Hers are not the feel good novels we come to expect at Christmastime. She writes Victorian England like no other since Dickens. Her last year’s Christmas novella, A Christmas Promise,was my favorite. It is the story of thirteen-year-old Gracie Phipps–whom we’ve come to know from Perry’s Thomas Pitt novels–as she is caught up in eight-year-old Minnie Maude’s quest to find her missing donkey and discover who killed her uncle, a rag and bone collector. The two girls make their way through the mean streets of Whitechapel with the help of the mysterious Balthasar in a search for the golden casket that may solve the mystery. Her stories are always true to the period and we only glimpse a Currier & Ives kind of Christmas through the eyes of the outsiders.
A whole different kind of Christmas novella is the more traditional stories told by my friend Debbie Macomber. I just finished reading Call Me Mrs. Miracle and loved it. It has all the elements we love—a hero who no longer believes in Christmas, a heroine who believes with her whole heart despite the challenges she faces trying to provide the perfect Christmas gift for the nephew left in her care and a meddling angel of a character–Mrs. Miracle–who makes magical things happen.
It’s a delight from beginning to end.
The book has already been made into a Hallmark Channel movie. It was the highest rated Hallmark Channel telecast of the year. It was also the #1 prime time cable program of the day and the #1 rated movie of the week. I have to say, though, that the book is even better than the movie.
So I give you two different favorite novellas. One traditional, the other strictly historical. One that leaves the reader looking for Christmas miracles, the other that heightens us to the plight of children–both past and present–who barely eke out enough to fill their bellies except on Christmas. Both are part of the season. And I recommend that both be read and enjoyed.
Here’s a question for you: Is it important for a writer to find that balance between creating a heartwarming story–like O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi–and being honest about the realities of poverty and need? If you were to write a Christmas novella, where would it fall?
Speaking of the realities of poverty and need. . . I have an online Salvation Army Red Kettle. I’d be so very appreciative if you’d be willing to drop in a tuppence or two for those in need this Christmas. (Picture me ringing the bell here.)