Sunday, December 15, 2013

Book Review: The Christmas Bus, by Melody Carlson (First review for The 2013 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge)

This is my first review for
The 2013 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge
which is hosted by Michelle @
The Christmas Spirit Blog,
and runs from
Nov. 22, 2013, to Jan. 6, 2014!
To participate, just click on the button above.

The Christmas Bus
Melody Carlson
Hardcover, 176 pages
Fleming H. Revell Company
October 1, 2006
Christian Fiction, Christmas Fiction

Book SynopisThe people of Christmas Valley always celebrate Christmas to the fullest extent. The mayor plays Santa, every business is holiday themed, and there's a nativity for the kids each Christmas Eve. This town knows Christmas. But this year nothing goes according to plan. Shepherd's Inn is full of strangers, Mad Myrtle is causing problems, and a young couple with a baby due any minute rolls in to the middle of town in their Partridge Family-style bus. It's hardly the holiday Christmas Valley wanted--but it may be just what they need. This charming novella is sure to become a new Christmas tradition for readers who love a great holiday story.

The Treasure of Christmas
Omnibus Edition: The Christmas Bus, The Gift of Christmas Present, Angels in the Snow
Melody Carlson
Hardcover, 413 pages
Fleming H. Revell Company
October 10, 2010
Christian Fiction, Christmas Fiction

Book SynopsisReaders have enjoyed Melody Carlson's Christmas novels for years. Now three of these beloved stories are available in this handsome value-priced 3-in-1 edition. The Treasure of Christmas includes The Christmas Bus, Angels in the Snow, and The Gift of Christmas Present. These stories will be cherished parts of the holiday season for years to come.

My Review
(Reviewer's Note: This novella is one of three in the omnibus edition shown above, which I purchased.  However, I am going to review it separately, since doing three reviews in one post would make the post much too long.  It would also not allow me the space to comment on everything I want to mention.)

I had heard of this novella some time back, but never happened to pick it up until now, when I discovered the omnibus edition.  Of course, the cover, with that charming painted bus, immediately won me over!
This was a perfect story for the season!  The setting was appropriately beautiful, with its Christmas-themed town, and the characters were just wonderful!

The plot centers around Edith Ryan, who, with her husband Charles, owns the Shepherd's Inn, a picturesque bed and breakfast located in the town of Christmas Valley.  It is through her eyes that we witness the events that take place, although this is not a first-person narrative.  Still, it's mostly Edith's thoughts and feelings that the reader is privy to, since, after all, it's Edith herself who is the catalyst for everything that happens in the story.  This is so because of an unforeseen event: her children, for various reasons, are unable to join Edith and her husband for the Christmas holiday this year.  Therefore, inspired by one of her husband's sermons (he also happens to be the town pastor), she decides to open the bed and breakfast to strangers, something she and Charles normally wouldn't do during the holiday season, since they reserve the inn for family instead.

What ensues on the heels of Edith's decision is at once comical, providing a detailed look at small-town life, as well as sad.  Carlson's eye for detail is flawless, as she meticulously analyzes the foibles and prejudices of these town dwellers, as well as their innate generosity and Christian spirit.  These latter qualities are drawn forth, paradoxically enough, by one of the lodgers at the inn, Myrtle Pinkerton, a cantankerous old woman who stirs up the town's conscience, while making quite a nuisance of herself.  

Myrtle soon locks horns with Olive, one of the organizers of the Christmas pageant, who is a formidable character in her own right.  How these two strong-willed women battle out their differences makes for some hilarious, as well as uncomfortable, reading. 

While these shenanigans are going on, a brightly painted, hippie-style bus arrives.  Inside are a young couple, Amy and Collin, who are headed to California, but have come to Christmas Valley to repair the bus, which is having mechanical trouble.  Amy is due to have a baby very soon, and they have very little money.  Unfortunately, there's no more room at the inn....

Carlson brings these and other memorable characters together in a story guaranteed to touch the heart.  The Christmas spirit shines throughout, as the townspeople come together to help the young couple, as rehearsals for the Christmas pageant go on, in spite of arguments between Myrtle and Olive.  Other lodgers are also influenced by the Christmas spirit, as they slowly reconstruct their own damaged lives.

I loved Edith's character!  She is such a gentle, kind, generous person, and is always trying to do the right thing according to her conscience, without worrying about what others might think.  However, she is also a very diplomatic soul, being very adept at smoothing ruffled feathers.  Above all, she wants everyone to get along well.  In short, she's an eternal optimist.  She has a wonderful, loving relationship with her husband, as well. 

I also liked Charles, although Carlson does not deal with him in depth, as she does with Edith.  He's a straightforward, simple man, who speaks from his heart.  His sermons are never of the "fire and brimstone" type.  Instead, they are full of the gentle love of the Gospel.

Amy and Collin are very pleasant, simple people.  They are also very naïve, which really endeared them to me.  They, like Edith, are eternal optimists, trusting that they will always find kind people to help them out.  They are not materialistic in any way; indeed, they are quite content to live in their bus.  They're happy with each other, and that's all that matters to them. 

The one character I totally disliked, nearly to the very end, was Myrtle.  Although her role in the story turned out to be a surprising one, she was so unpleasant that I found her extremely exasperating for most of the novella.  Unfortunately, she was an  elderly person.  Poor Edith had to deal with her as patiently as possible.

Although this is a gently-written, slow-paced book, I was constantly glued to the page.  This was because of Carlson's vivid characterizations and lively prose, with its equally vivid descriptions. 

I'm so glad I felt so compelled to buy The Treasure of Christmas!  I have greatly enjoyed reading The Christmas Bus, and definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to get into the holiday mood.  I know it's helped me to do so!  I have also found a new author to add to my list of favorites! 


Melody Carlson

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  1. Not normally a fan of short story collections this looks like such a wonderful festive selection that I could make an exception.

    Nice to have met you. I love the seasonal look to your blog.

    1. Hi, Tracy!

      Oh, you can't possibly go wrong with this one! It's a wonderful collection!

      Nice meeting you, too! Thanks for complimenting my blog!! : )


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