Home for Christmas
By Holly Chamberlin
Release Date: October 31, 2017
Reviewed by Janga
Six years ago when Nell King’s husband left her for a younger woman, she left her “perfect life” in a Boston suburb behind and moved to Yorktide, Maine, to start a new life with her daughters, Molly and Felicity, then fifteen and eleven. Nell found healing and happiness in Yorktide, but as this Christmas approaches, she is overcome with sadness at thoughts of her soon-to-be-empty nest. With Molly planning to marry shortly after she graduates in June and Felicity looking forward to college in the fall and planning to spend next Christmas in Switzerland with her father and celebrity stepmother, Nell realizes this Christmas may be the last one her family of three will share. She determines to make this Christmas one her daughters will always remember, their best Christmas ever.
As Nell struggles with concerns about who she will be once her daughters no longer need her, she begins decorating the day after Thanksgiving. By the second week in December, the house is filled with Christmas trimmings, including three Christmas trees, one so big that it required two men to move it into the house. Her kitchen is filled with holiday cookies and candies, and every spare minute from her job as office manager of a local veterinary practice is taken up with her Christmas handcraft du jour.
Despite her efforts, the season is not measuring up to expectations. Her daughters are begging off participating in some of the family’s cherished traditions. Molly is planning to break up with her longtime boyfriend to avoid losing herself in marriage and motherhood, a decision that Nell sees as a critique of her own life. Felicity, influenced by her stepmother, is displaying a disturbing materialism. And the reappearance of Eric Manville, now a successful novelist and the man Nell loved madly at twenty-one, is forcing her to question choices she made long ago.
This has been a good year for heartwarming Christmas stories with the sentiment and seasonal packaging of a Hallmark movie. Add Holly Chamberlin’s Christmas novel to the list of those that do this sort of story well. Although this is women’s fiction with Nell’s journey to a rediscovery of self at its center, the romantic element is strong enough to make the book appealing to romance readers. The characters are relatable, and Nell’s decorating, baking/candy making, gifting frenzy will strike a familiar note with many readers. So too will her fears that the reality of the holiday will not measure up to her dreams of what it should be. Themes of second chances, forgiveness, and reconciliation add greater substance.
This is a sweet story that manages to avoid the saccharine. There are no villains here. Even the ex-husband is a man with strengths as well as weaknesses and a father who loves his daughters. If you like quieter stories without high drama or sizzling sensuality, I think you will appreciate this one. I did, and I give it an unqualified recommendation for readers who are more sentimental than cynical.