The author of Ordinary Grace sets this adventure novel with echoes of Huckleberry Finn and The Odyssey in 1932 Minnesota and Missouri. Four kids head south in a canoe, fleeing loss and harsh treatment at the Lincoln Indian Training School. Odie and his older brother Albert are orphans heading to a barely remembered aunt in St. Louis, while young Emmy clings to Sioux teen Mose after she’s lost everything in a tornado. Mose is mute, and the group share an often secret sign language. They meet a healer with a revival tent show, a madam, traveling families and vagabonds, and find temporary haven in a soup kitchen and friendship in a Hoover town. Odie is a storyteller, Albert can fix most mechanical equipment, Mose goes on a vision quest, and young Emmy reminds an eccentric farmer of his missing daughter. Poignant and lyrically written, this story of an unlikely family on an epic journey has moments of conflict balanced with simple joys, unpredictable adventures, and the possibility of danger around every river bend. This remarkable character-driven novel is a compelling read.
What does it mean to start over at age twelve, having lost everything important, but suddenly famous? Eddie Adler is flying from New York City to Los Angeles with his older brother Jordan and his parents. His mother is in first class, working on a television script. Their flight is doomed, and Eddie will be the only survivor. The stories of several passengers and a flight attendant alternate with Eddie’s recovery. Eddie, now Edward, struggles with the burden of being the sole survivor. He lives with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey and is befriended by next-door neighbor Shay. What finally gives Edward a purpose is a cache of letters Shay and Edward find hidden in the garage, written to him by the families and friends of the other passengers. Although it’s hard to put down, this is not a thriller but rather a moving and melancholy coming-of-age story written with compassion, insight, and a glimmer of hope.
In Christmas from the Heart by Sheila Roberts, Livi Berg is stunned when her charity’s biggest sponsor sends a frosty email with the news that they’re not sending a donation to Christmas from the Heart. Guy Hightower, running a family business with his brothers, regrets the email, but not his lavish lifestyle. When his sports car breaks down outside Pine River, Washington, Livi gives him a ride to her friend’s auto repair shop. Guy gives a fake name and is absorbed into village life while his car is repaired, even helping to judge a fruitcake contest. Predictably, Guy falls for Livi and Pine River, but hesitates to reveal his true identity in this cozy, heartwarming romance.
In Christmas Cow Bells, the first in a new cozy mystery series by Mollie Cox Bryan, Brynn MacAlister is settling into Shenandoah Springs, Virginia, along with her three cows. Brynn is a cheesemaker, getting ready for the farm market shop set to open soon in an old church. When her neighbor Nancy is critically injured in a fire at the old church, Brynn is as uneasy as her cow Petunia, and starts investigating, with help from Nancy’s teen grandsons and other local farmers. This is an appealing, very gentle mystery just right for holiday reading, especially as another cow, Buttercup, is rehearsing for a holiday pageant.
For more holiday reads, see my December book display of heartwarming holiday stories. Up next in my to be read pile is Owl Be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews, in which blacksmith Meg and her extended family get snowed in at a Virginia inn hosting an ornithology conference.
Happy holiday reading!