Illustrated by Suzanne Langelier-Lebeda
Published by Wheatmark
Reviewed for Review the Book
One of the most beautiful stories I have ever read. The embrace of the book, its tale of faith and love, yet mixed with sadness and resentment over past loss, touched a chord deep within me. This is a Christmas story, and yet it is a life story. A story of life that goes on through generations, through faith that doesn't fail and love that lives forever. Barbara Briggs Ward knows how to write magic that touches the soul and releases anger and sorrow.
Abbey has grown up without her mother from a delicate age, but she and her father have a wonderful relationship. They live above a funeral home where her father is the funeral director. Abbey helps her father by cutting out all the obituaries for the funeral home file, copies enough for the families, and through her caring mind begins to think about the stories of the lives of those who have passed. Her father is also a caring man, and has befriended a man that seems lonely and without friends. Imagine their surprise when this man dies and leaves a lovely old home and large property to Abbey's father with the stipulation that if her father passes, the property will go to her, and so it does. But this is the prelude to the magic.
Though a perfect Christmas story aimed at adults, primarily those who have lost the child within, or lost their way on the treacherous road of harsh reality, this is also a story for all seasons. This is not a book strictly of religious faith, in fact it is driven by the faith of a child, pure and unadulterated, whether that faith is in a person, a religious deity, or in Santa Claus. As children we have an innate faith and trust, we have an untouchable belief system. But life can change all that through the years. What we need is a reminder and this book provides exactly that.
There are many changes in quick succession in the life of Abbey, but her love for her husband Steve, and the reciprocation of that love is the catalyst for overcoming all obstacles. Life simply is not always smooth and simple, there are always sudden drops, disappointments, and misunderstandings. These are the trials she must overcome, in particular with her feelings about her mother who died when Abbey was young. It's a common enough human feeling in such cases to resent the parent for leaving, and Abby has carried this for too many years of her life. As her family returns home for the Christmas holiday, a magical event happens in her life that changes her entire feeling for her mother and fills her with understanding. It is with this new understanding and the love of her husband and family that she is able to cope with the news she is about to hear. But with newfound strength of heart and faith she is able to accomplish what she sets out to do.
This story brought me comfort. It cloaks the reader with warmth like a down-filled duvet. An impressive debut work of fiction. I highly recommend this book, I just can't say enough about it. I am so thankful I read it. Barbara, you are the believer, and you shared it beautifully.