Eight Stories of Christmas Hope
Written By: Bradley Harper, Erol Engin, Lilla Glass, Derek McFadden and Maria O’Rourke
Published By: Papillon du Pere Publishing
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
If you’ve been following G-POP, you know that this time of year, I like to look for movies, books, music and any other media I can find centered on the holiday season. This time around, I found a compilation of uplifting Christmas stories called The Bells of Christmas II. Even better than the uplifting tales is the fact that all proceeds from the sale of the book go to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. After reading my reviewer’s copy, I bought a copy for a friend for both reasons.
Bradley Harper has three tales in this book. First up is The Bells of Christmas, focused on Julius, a homeless man spending his last few days in a shelter. For Christmas, he has only one wish: to see someone he loves that he lost some time ago. Funny thing about Christmas – it’s the time of miracles. Harper’s second tale is A Winter Candle about a retired military man who isn’t sure what to do with his life. His last few years have been tumultuous thanks to a drinking problem that ruined his marriage and earned him a DUI. That DUI has cost him the one job he thought he would slide into after retiring. Now he works as a parts clerk in a local garage, hoping each day that he could find a way to make his estranged son understand just how much he loves him. Then, he gets an offer for a part time job at a local department store and a visit from an old friend. Suddenly, it seems like the world has become a more beautiful place in which anything is possible. Bradley Harper’s final tale, What Santa Has Taught Me, is about his own experiences portraying Santa Claus at a local park.
Derek McFadden has quite a magical tale in this compilation called The Last Christmas Gift. In this story, Travis is searching for meaning in life after a bad break-up. Depressed and desperate, he decides to take a ferry ride, one he always took to visit his grandparents when he was younger. The nostalgia turns into amazement as Travis is joined on his journey by someone he hasn’t seen in a very long time, someone that can help him find insight and meaning in his life again.
In Calling Us Home, Maria O’Rourke reminisces on childhood Christmases in Ireland, remembering all the traditions shared with her parents, siblings and extended family that she continues to share with her own children. In The Bear’s Last Word on the Matter, Will Knight introduces us to James and Bear, an unlikely team much in the vein of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, but without the honey or stuffing. In this tale, the elderly Bear and his friend James relate the tale of how they once saved Christmas.
In The Sugar Plum Redux by Lilla Glass, we learn that the Sugar Plum Fairy has a night job – visiting young children and dispelling the monsters that haunt their dreams. But one set of children and their nightmare hits her hard. Together with an unlikely assistant, Sugar Plum sets out to reunite these children with the one man who can take their nightmares away. Unfortunately, that man is suffering some nightmares of his own, ones so fraught with guilt they won’t allow him to see how he could possibly benefit anyone else’s life. Erol Engin’s A Tintoretto of the Soul is a tale about a never-do-well named Gus who, despite the selfish reasons, finds a way to brighten up one person’s life for the holidays.
I enjoyed all of the stories in this anthology, but my favorite The Bells of Christmas tale is A Winter Candle. I could relate to the way playing Santa lifts the spirit and this tale, more than any of the others put such a huge smile on my face that I had to tall everyone around me about it. Though all the stories in this anthology are good, A Winter Candle is the one I most think about when recommending this book to others. Definitely worth the read. I’m going to have to get my hands on the original book, The Bells of Christmas, to see what I missed and can’t wait for the third book in this installment to come out.