Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: The Gift of Christmas Present, by Melody Carlson (Second review for The 2013 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge)

This is my second 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 Gift of Christmas Present
Melody Carlson
Hardcover, 204 pages
Fleming H. Revell Company
September 1, 2004
Christian Fiction, Christmas Fiction

Book SynopsisCollege student Christine Bradley grew up in a loving and honest family. So she couldn't have been more surprised when, shortly after her mother's death, her father revealed the startling truth that Christine had been adopted at birth. In search of clues about her biological mother, Christine encounters a family she never knew she had. She digs deeper as Christmas nears and what she finds reveals a shocking lineage. Will Christine be able to come to grips with the past, take hold of the present, and look forward to a brighter future? Carlson's warm tale of loss, recovery, and acceptance will captivate current fans and create new ones.

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.)
It's only normal for an adopted child to eventually want to meet his/her biological parents, and Christine Bradley is no exception.  Even though she loves her adoptive family, she feels she must find out more about the people who brought her into the world.   Unfortunately, the woman who gave her life has since passed away, so she goes in search of the family.

When she discovers her grandmother's address, she decides to go in person to meet her, not without some trepidation.  Her grandmother, a cantankerous and rather intimidating character, thinks that the girl at her door is the housekeeper sent by an employment agency.  Christine is dismayed, but doesn't know how to break the news, so she goes along with the charade for as long as she can, hoping for a chance to tell her grandmother who she really is.

How Christine and her grandmother eventually discover the truth about each other makes for some fascinating reading.  Along the way, the reader also uncovers a long-hidden family tragedy that could jeopardize the Christmas holiday....

Christine, the main character, is a totally wonderful person.  She actually lives her Christian values, as is evident in the way she treats Esther, her temperamental grandmother, who is less than kind to her.  Eventually, however, Christine wins her over, so that even before Esther finds out that she and Christine are actually related, she has begun to treat Christine as more of a companion and friend, rather than an employee.

Another great character is Jimmy, Esther's stepson.  He, too, treats Esther with more kindness than she deserves.  And he is more than welcoming to Christine, even before he discovers her relationship to Esther. 

Jimmy's wife, Felicia, is a rather self-centered, shallow character, although she does get into the Christmas spirit with a lot of decorating gusto.  To be fair, she is a good mother to her two sons, and a loving wife to Jimmy.

Aside from Christine, the novella's other memorable character is Esther herself.  She is a very bitter person, thinking that her daughter, Christine's mother, has cut herself off from the family permanently.  She has a hard time coping when she finally learns, through Christine, that her daughter is dead.  As the plot unfolds, however, Esther slowly becomes a more pleasant person, as she starts to relate to Christine as a beloved relative.  She also starts to get into the spirit of the holiday.

One of the best things about this novella is its strong pro-life message.  In order to avoid being pressured into killing her unborn child, Amanda, Christine's birth mother, ran away.  Eventually, she was connected with Christine's adoptive parents, who took her in and helped her in every way they could.  Even though the reader only gets a sketchy portrait of Amanda, it's clear that she is an admirable character.

I also loved Hattie, Esther's sister-in-law.  She is so endearing and lovable.  She and Esther have had some differences in the past, but everything is wonderfully healed over the Christmas holiday.

Although this novella deals with some very hard issues, it's a heartwarming Christmas read.  The overall theme of family love and healing is what the Christmas spirit is all about!  My only complaint is that this isn't a full-length novel.  I really would have liked to see the story given more development.  Still, I really couldn't put this one down, and fully enjoyed every minute! 

If you enjoy Christmas stories that explore family dynamics, you can't go wrong with this one.  As with all the novellas in this omnibus edition, you will truly feel blessed and joyful!



Melody Carlson


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