I know I’ve been resisting talking about Christmas related subjects, but the truth is that I’d been hiding an ace up my sleeve. A few weeks ago (it was in October) I read a book with a Christmas theme, from an author, Donna VanLiere, who writes a lot of Christmas stories. And yes, I must admit I loved it. When I got an e-mail from Justine Shaw, her publicist, reminding me of the launch of the book and offering an interview with the author, I thought I’d reserve it for an appropriate time. As the author has also been very busy touring with the book I only just got the questions back, so, right in time, here I bring you…
The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere A delightful story about a place we’d all like to call home
Donna VanLiere, New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.
Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.
When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?
Just in time for this year’s holiday season, Donna VanLiere is back with a moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places, in THE CHRISTMAS TOWN (St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 18, 2016, $16.99)
My review is based on a free advance copy from St Martin’s Press via NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion or the review content.
OK, I’m not a big fan of Christmas. There, I’ve said it. The fuss, the mad rush to buy presents, the obligation to be happy… But there are certain things about Christmas I don’t mind, like the crafts fairs that pop up everywhere, some of the songs (although not when played continuously 24/7) or the books (and movies, but, especially the movies, I prefer them around the right time of the year. Watching a Christmas movie in August is a no-no).
Despite that, I could not resist requesting this book when I read the description, as I do like stories where a community gets together and people find a true home. And I’m happy I decided to read it.
The Christmas Town is fairly short, full of surprises (well, some not so surprising, but pleasant nonetheless), and it has a big heart. You have memorable characters (some very recognisable, like the woman who insists on using British expressions nobody understands, or the tall, dark and handsome romantic hero), some unique, like Ben, the young man who works at a grocery store and wins everybody’s heart by offering them personalised messages with their shopping. You have a great setting, and a suitably seasonal story, with auctions, personal objects, songs, and social media confusing things.
The story is told from several characters’ points of view (in the third person), although the main character is Lauren Gabriel, a young woman with a difficult childhood but full of dreams and hopes, despite her disappointments. She ends up in Grandon, a charming small-town, and although there are heartaches on the way… Well, this is a Christmas story, but I won’t spoil it for you.
There is humour, characters you’d love to know in real life, complications, chance, music, miracles and family. And a great sense of community. The story also touches on some sad issues (Lauren’s difficult childhood and her relationship with her estranged parents, children’s illnesses and disabilities, financial worries) but all dealt with a light touch.
If you want a light and heart-warming read with endearing characters and a place you’d love to call home, and you don’t mind Christmas (or even if you do) I recommend it. Ah, and don’t miss Ben’s messages. Priceless!
Here a bit of information about the author:
Donna VanLiere is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author and gifted conference speaker. She has published fourteen titles including The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Blessing, both of which were adapted into movies (starring Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Perry and Neil Patrick Harris) and garnered big ratings for CBS television. LifetimeTelevision adapted The Christmas Hope (starring Madeline Stowe) and premiered it December 2009 to stellar ratings as well. Donna’s non-seasonal novel, The Angels of Morgan Hill, has captured the same warmth as her Christmas books and continues to please loyal and new fans alike.
Donna is the recipient of a Retailer’s Choice Award for Fiction, a Dove Award, a Silver Angel Award, an Audie Award for best inspirational fiction, a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book of the Year and was recently inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Excellence joining such luminaries as Coretta Scott King, Hugh Downs, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Senator John Glenn. Donna is an in-demand conference speaker having appeared at countless women’s and family events, including select Women of Faith and Extraordinary Women conferences.
Donna lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, Troy, and their children, Grace, Kate and David.
Learn more at www.DonnaVanLiere.com
As I mentioned earlier, author Donna VanLiere agreed to answer some questions, and here they are.
Thanks very much for taking time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions. It’s an honour to have you as a guest on my blog.
You’ve written about other things too, but many of your books are seasonal, with a Christmas theme. What made you choose Christmas in particular?
Christmas is about hope and joy and the greatest story ever told. I feel like all of our stories are birthed out of the manger story. For me, it’s quite easy to develop a story around Christmas because for many people Christmas is difficult. I want each of my stories to be filled with characters who are like people you know, not cookie cutter characters. I want the reader to know that despite hard circumstances that hope is alive.
I love The Christmas Town. The setting (Grandon, a place where I’d love to live), the characters, the stories… Do you have a favourite?
I can’t choose a favorite among the Christmas stories because I love all of the characters!! My favorite book I’ve ever written is one called The Good Dream. It’s set in 1950 in East Tennessee and is about a single woman and a little boy and their journey together.
It’s difficult to choose, but Ben’s character is somebody we’d all love to meet. Can you tell us a bit more about his creation?
Ben bags groceries at the local supermarket. He is a pure, sweet soul who never meets a stranger. Several months before Christmas he decided he wanted to do something to make a difference as he bagged groceries. No one knew, not even Ben himself, how that one idea would inspire the townspeople.
Is there any specific message you’d like to send your readers?
We never really understand how important we are to someone else’s story. Our own story isn’t just about us. It’s about so many others around us. Just like in The Christmas Town you are not just a bag boy or a cashier or a waitress or a parks & recreation employee. You are an important character in someone else’s story.
Thanks so much to Donna VanLiere for answering my questions and for giving us this story that made even me (a bit of a grinch) feel more of the Christmas spirit. And thanks to you all for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!