Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book review: Angels in the Snow, by Melody Carlson (Third review for the 2013 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge)


This is my third 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.

Angels in the Snow
Melody Carlson
Hardcover, 176 pages
Fleming H. Revell Company
August 1, 2002
Christian Fiction, Christian Romance, Christmas Fiction, Christmas Romance

Book SynopsisThemes of grief, love, and renewed faith intertwine in this winsome novella by best-selling author Melody Carlson. The recently widowed Claire Andrews is mourning the deaths of her husband and young son who were killed in a boating accident. Grief-stricken and angry with God, Claire, a professional artist, finds she is no longer able to paint. In her sorrow, she flees to an isolated cabin in the Cascade Mountains to find solace and healing, and hopefully, her talent again. As Claire walks through the woods each day, she discovers two sets of footprints in the snow-an adult's and a child's. Although Claire desperately wants to believe that the prints belong to the loved husband and child she has lost, discovering the true identity of the ones who make the tracks will reawaken romance and restore her faith. Melody Carlson's legions of readers will embrace this newest tale of love and hope that has seasonal appeal for Christmas gift-giving and the timeless allure of a story well told.


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.)

This is an absolutely beautiful story that in part reads almost like a fairy tale, although it revolves around a very real tragedy.  The desolation and grief felt by Claire are indeed all too real, as is her total inability to paint.  Carlson does a great job of depicting Claire's desperate attempts to come to terms with the loss of her husband and child, immersing the reader in her character's sorrow.  She also does an excellent job of letting the reader feel what an artist feels when their talent is totally blocked.

This particular novella is my favorite of the three included in the omnibus edition I purchased.  I say this because, having studied art myself, I can truly empathize with Claire.  I know just how it feels when one wants to create, and can't, for whatever reason.  I can also empathize with her feeling of loss at the senseless deaths of her husband and son, having suffered personal loss myself, although not of the type Claire had to go through.  

Because of the strength of my empathy with the novella's central character, I found I couldn't read it, at first.  I really tried -- twice.  Both times, I gave up, in tears.  I persisted, however, and the third time, I was finally able to get into the story. 

As I read, I began to feel so bonded to Claire that I felt as if it were me in that desolate cabin, struggling with my grief and the numbing inertia that accompanies a creative block.  It was I who heard the eerie howling of the wind at night, I who trudged through the snow, who saw the footprints of two people I hoped were my lost husband and son, even as my rational mind repeatedly told me they couldn't be.  I even saw, through Claire's eyes, the beauty of a northern landscape I have always longed for, since I've never experienced snow in reality.

It is such an awe-inspiring experience to actually become the character one is reading about in a book!  It takes an author of great skill to accomplish this.  Of course, my own life experiences helped this to happen, but still, Carlson is a master at accomplishing this very thing, and most especially in this novella.

When Claire starts to find her art again, she paints with no rhyme or reason.  Her unconscious has taken over, and it has touched the divine, for she is painting angels without being consciously aware of doing so.  It's only when she steps back to actually look at what she has created that she sees them -- half-hidden by the snow-laden trees..... 

Everything that happens in this story has a magical, too-good-to-be-true quality, and yet, it does happen.  It's life as we wish it could be, after a tragedy has taken place.  It's the resolution we want and seek, the happily-ever-after we long for.  This is what I felt as I read, this is what touched me very deeply. 

The next time I cried, the tears were happy ones, because the scales had been righted, and one who had suffered so much, at last found happiness again.

Some readers might criticize this novella as a rather sentimental, overly romanticized tale that could never take place in 'real life', but the thing is, it's the magic of fictional reality that gives one pause, that makes one realize just how much wonder and magic are present in the reality beyond the pages, if only we would stop and look.

Of course, my favorite character is Claire.  She is, after all, the central one.  She possesses an indomitable spirit, and yet, she is also a very loving, compassionate person.  This is very evident in her determination to keep a stray dog who has unexpectedly appeared on her doorstep.  It's also evident in all her other actions throughout the story.

I also like Jeannie, Claire's artistic agent.  She never gives up on Claire, always prodding her, although with light-hearted joking, to try to return to her art.  She's a true friend, too, advising Claire on anything and everything that will help her career and personal life. 

There are other, more minor characters who also play an important part in Claire's recovery, but I don't want to give too much away.

Again I state that, although some readers might find this story much too 'schmaltzy' for their taste, it totally enchanted this reader!  I suppose I'm an incurable romantic, for which I make no apologies. 

If, like me, you enjoy reading inspiring Christmas fiction full of heart-wrenching emotions and yet, a touch of magic and wonder, you certainly won't go wrong with this one.  In fact, you will probably enjoy this novella so much, you'll want, again like me, to go back and re-read it, and more than once, too.

How interesting that this was the last novella in the omnibus collection.  I don't think this was an accidental thing on the publisher's part, either.  Because, of course, one should always leave the best story for last.  So, if I could, I'd give this one SIX stars, instead of just five!


Melody Carlson

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