In two new works of popular fiction, determined characters search for answers to evergreen questions of fate and choice.
Josie Silver’s One Day in December begins and ends during holiday seasons, spanning a decade as three young people come to terms with the choices they’ve made.
While waiting to depart for holiday travel, 22-year-old Laurie stares through the window from her seat on a London bus and glimpses the face of a stranger standing outside in the crowd. Their eyes meet, but the doors swing shut and the bus pulls away. Over the next year, perhaps lured into that age-old trap of wanting the impossible, Laurie, aided and abetted by best friend Sarah, searches everywhere to try and locate her elusive “bus boy,” but to no avail.
Fast-forward to the next holiday season, when in an ironic turn of fate, Sarah introduces Laurie to her new boyfriend. This is how Jack, the bus boy, reappears in Laurie’s life, though neither Laurie nor Jack thinks the other remembers the bus encounter, and both pretend this is their first meeting. Time passes, and there’s a marriage or two, along with deceptions and revelations that alter all of their lives.
What sounds like a garden-variety romance takes shape as an impeccably written novel. The charm’s in the telling as Laurie and Jack struggle with their private thoughts and yearnings . . . and there’s that accidental late-night kiss. Each will have to decide how—or if—they’ll be able to square their dreams with reality.
The holiday greeting advanced in a yearly letter provides the title of Gretchen Anthony’s Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners, a rambling, funny and often poignant look at how one family disintegrates, copes and flourishes, then carries on with life.
Violet needs structure, certainty and, above all, advance plans. But what’s a deeply loving and controlling mother to do when her daughter, Cerise—happily partnered up with a woman named Barb—becomes pregnant? The father’s name is known only to Cerise and Barb, and they’re not telling.
This is hard to take for Violet, whose controlling arm is long. However, leave it to this determined lady to find a way to return order to her world. She’s used to micromanaging events at home and at the Faithful Redeemer Church holiday fair, as well as the ongoing issues in her friend Eldris’ life, so what could go wrong here? What’s a little fraud, some missing eyeglasses, an early labor, an unfinished family tree and a food fight with roast lamb, among friends?
Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners is a charming, often hilarious story about people whose sticky jealousies, insecurities and small joys are remarkably similar to the ones that mark our own lives. Anthony offers readers a chance to savor and appreciate the joys of the commonplace as well as that strange but remarkable pride we have in our own family bonds.
This article was originally published in the December 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.