Often my mom will pick up a short little Christmas-y book around this time of year. I read a few several years ago now, but have been disenchanted with them since they are often a little too predictable and trite and seem to be of a lesser quality than those published by the same authors at a different non-holiday time.
Jennifer Chiaverini is a fantastic author, and her historical fiction novels never disappoint me. So even though Christmas Bells is clearly a Christmas novel, I had to take a chance on it anyway.
It was worth the gamble.
Chiaverini has two stories going on simultaneously.
The first is a historical fiction story about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the author, and his family life. Set during the Civil War, Longfellow tries unsuccessfully to discourage his son from joining the Union forces fighting the South. He is grieving the tragic loss of his beloved wife Fanny, and is not able to write for a while.
The second story is set around a group of characters who are part of the children's choir at a Catholic church. The choir director is losing her job as a music teacher due to budget cuts. A sister and brother are missing their father who is in Afghanistan. As the sister hopes to surprise her mother with a Christmas story she has written she is devastated by being accused of plagiarism. A widow is looking for ways to help others and is interested in assuming her husband's former government job.
Chiaverini ties up all these stories nicely, and brings Longfellow's writing of Christmas Bells, the poem he wrote on Christmas Day many years before, to life.
There is still a bit of predictability and happily ever after that most Christmas stories have, but also a bit more depth than most. I loved the historical fiction component of this story as well.