Seven Days of Us, by Francesca Hornak (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
Seven Days of Us, by Francesca HornakFor the first time in years, the Birch family will spend Christmas together – not that there’s much choice. Olivia Birch has long avoided the holidays with her family – in school, then in residency, and most recently in Africa as a doctor treating victims of a deadly virus. Her tour of duty over and back in the U.K., she is under quarantine for seven days, and thus the enforced family gathering at the slightly shabby family estate in Norfolk. Sister Phoebe is secretly jealous she’ll no longer be the focus of attention, but she’s busying herself planning her wedding to an absolute ass, though she doesn’t see it. Yet. Mum Emma is keeping a big secret from her family, and Dad Andrew, a restaurant critic, is dreading the prospect of a week with his wife and daughters. Read More »


Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories, by L.M. Montgomery (1995)

Short Stories
Christmas With Anne and Other Holiday Stories, by L.M. MontgomeryWith so many demands on our time this month, it can be a challenge to make it a priority to relax and enjoy the sounds, sights, and scents of the holidays. This year I chose a classic Canadian collection by our very own Lucy Maud Montgomery. This collection of holiday stories was put together by Rea Wilmshurst, who found a number of unpublished stories in the late 1970s at Montgomery’s birthplace. She obtained a list of every item Montgomery published (more than 500), and spent years collecting as many as she could. Many of the stories were only published at the turn of the 20th century, in magazines or other formats. The list includes included a number of Christmas stories, the best of which appear here. Read More »

Baseball Bats for Christmas, by Michael Kusugak (1990, 2017)

Children’s Fiction
Baseball Bats for Christmas by Michael KusugakWhat fun it is to discover a classic for the first time! The 2017 reissue of this popular children’s picture book gave me the chance to finally read this award-winning Inuit story, based on the author’s own lived experience. When the bush pilot Rocky Parsons delivers a load of Christmas trees in 1955, the children of Repulse Bay are intrigued. Only Peter knows what they are. “Standing ups,” he declares, having seen them in pictures shown him by Father Didier. Asked what they are for, he simply shrugs. But when someone gets a ball for Christmas, the purpose of these standing ups becomes clear to the children – standing ups are ideal for making baseball bats! Read More »

Tales from Christmas Wood, by Suzy Senior (2015)

Christmas Fiction
Tales from Christmas WoodIt’s Christmas Eve, and Christmas Wood looks lovely in the snow. But so much is happening behind the scenes! Badger stumbles across the lovely village and decides on the spot to move in. But her scary teeth make it hard to make new friends. Tiny Mouse is making gingerbread cookies, but his penchant for tasting creates a problem. Rosie Rabbit’s brothers are so noisy they drive their sister out the door, and she becomes lost. Robin wants to grow up to be a hero, and discovers something about himself. Fidgety Fox is looking for adventure and instead finds something scary in the barn! Read More »

A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg (2004)

A Redbird ChristmasReliable Southern fiction writer Fannie Flagg won me over on the second page as she introduced Oswald T. Campbell, a 52-year-old orphan who visits the doctor to discover he has months to live. In filling out the damn forms the doctor’s receptionist thrusts at him, he comes to a space asking him to list his complaints. He doesn’t hesitate: “The Cubs need a new second baseman.” Instead Oswald is told to abandon Chicago and its wintry weather. The good doc even fishes out a faded brochure for an inexpensive resort in Lost River, Alabama. Turns out the place burned down in 1911, but Oswald is lucky and connects with a helpful resident who picks up the phone at the community centre. She takes his number and as promised, calls back with an offer Oswald can’t refuse – a $50/week room in Betty Kitchen’s home, including meals. Read More »

Landline, by Rainbow Rowell (2014)

LandlineRainbow Rowell uses the universal human lament – if only I knew then what I know now – and spins a new adult tale of true love nearly gone wrong. Georgie McCool (yup, that’s her real name – so awesome that when she marries Neal insists she keeps it) is a comedy script writer in Hollywood whose star is on the rise. The promise of a new show forces her to choose between working on four scripts to nail the offer or spending Christmas with hubby and daughters at the in-laws. She chooses wrong. When Neal takes the girls to Nebraska without her, Georgie is stunned but shakes it off and buckles down with colleagues, staying at her mother’s for the interim. Georgie insists nothing is wrong with her marriage. Read More »

Hello from the Gillespies, by Monica McInerney (2014)

Contemporary Fiction
Adult (ovaries helpful)
Hello from the GillespiesIt’s December 1st, and as she does every year since her marriage 33 years ago, Angela Gillespie prepares her annual Christmas letter – a cheerful summary of the highlights of the year for the Gillespies – she and husband Nick, their four children aged 10 to 32, and their life on an immense sheep station in the Australian outback. But it’s been a rough year for Angela, and she lets off steam by drafting a truly honest summary of the year – one of her children is having an affair, her youngest is just plain weird, the other two gaining debt instead of stability, and she suspects her marriage is unraveling as her husband won’t confide in her and may be having a cyber-affair of his own. Read More »