Despite losing her parents in a tragic accident just before her fourteenth Christmas, Susan Norcross has had it better than most, with loving grandparents to raise her and a gang of quirky, devoted friends to support her. Now a successful bookstore owner in a tight-knit Michigan lakeside community, Susan is facing down forty—the same age as her mother when she died—and she can’t help but see everything she hasn’t achieved, including finding a love match of her own. To add to the pressure, everyone in her small town believes it’s Susan’s destiny to meet and marry a man dressed as Santa, just like her mother and grandmother before her. So it seems cosmically unfair that the man she makes an instant connection with at an annual Santa Run is lost in the crowd before she can get his name.
What follows is Susan and her friends’ hilarious and heartwarming search for the mystery Santa—covering twelve months of social media snafus, authors behaving badly and dating fails—as well as a poignant look at family, friendship and what defines a well-lived and well-loved life.
A Wish for Winter is a hopeful, heartwarming story of family, friendship, personal growth, and love. In many ways, it reads like a coming of age story even though the main protagonist is almost forty. I enjoyed Susan's journey. It's a leisurely, seasonal path that plays out over the course of an entire year. At times it felt a bit repetitive and sluggish, leaving me wishing either the story would speed up or the time frame be condensed. But I have to admit that when I reached the end of the book, I was glad the author had taken his time with these characters. There are no quick fixes, no miraculous recoveries. Susan needs each of those seasons and the personal growth they bring to achieve the clarity, healing, and happiness she seeks.
There's plenty of humor in Susan's dating adventures but Shipman nicely balances that with a depth of emotion that tugged at my heart. Her grandparents are the kind we all wish we had, her friends have her back, always, and her community wants only the best for her. Plus, she runs a bookshop! Her numerous Santa dates bring a few duds, a few new friends, and the possibility of one who is destined to jingle her bells for a lifetime.
As much as A Wish for Winter is about Susan and her family and friends, it's also very much a love letter to its setting. I grew up in Michigan and this book filled me with joyful memories of the pleasures to found there in all four seasons. It evoked the fun of summer boating on the lake, the majestic, colorful display of autumn leaves, the floral reawakening of spring, the beautiful, almost spiritual reverence of that first, silent, pristine, snowfall of the season and much, much more.
If you enjoy novels by Susan Mallery, Robyn Carr, and Sarah Morgan, you may want to give this book a try. It was my first Viola Shipman story. It won't be my last.