Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Real Santa-William Hazelgrove

Real Santa
William Hazelgrove
Koehler Books, Oct 1 2014, $16.95
ISBN: 9781938467943

Fifty years old and now unemployed after S&G fired him; George Kroenfeldt feels he failed at life.  He knows he was not there for his older children (eighteen year old daughter Jamie and twenty year old son Jeremy) from his first marriage and not that much with his youngest with his second wife, tweener Megan.

Ridgeland Elementary fourth grade teacher Barbara Worthington responds to Santa Claus questions from her class as she has for four decades; which leads to her student Megan having doubts.  Her friend informs Megan that her older brother insists Santa Claus is not real as their parents pretend otherwise.  Megan asks her parents if that is true and when they say no, record him to place on YouTube when Santa and his reindeer land on their roof.

Jamie demands her dad give her an IPhone for Christmas while Jeremy wants a new car and their mom pushes him to sell their tiny home for a new one.  George says no to all three demands as money just got tighter.  However, he reacts differently to Megan’s query.  Though his plan will cost a fortune he does not have and he will need many people involved, George as Santa will land on the roof with reindeer.

The actions and reactions of the cast to George’s obsession to create a Real Santa in order for his daughter to believe make this a winner.  George knows he cannot afford this yet also believes he cannot afford not to do this though the cost in money and relationships is exorbitant.  The climax feels logically wrong, but emotionally right as William Hazelgrove authors a wonderful Christmas family drama. 

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Sudden Light-Garth Stein

A Sudden Light
Garth Stein
Simon & Schuster, Sep 30 2014, $26.95
ISBN: 9781439187036

As he nears his fortieth birthday, Jones Riddell separates from his wife Rachel.  For the first time since his father exiled him after the teenager’s mother Isobel died over two decades ago back in 1967, Jones, accompanied by his fourteen years old son Trevor, heads to his family mansion, Riddell House in Washington State; Trevor arrives for the first time.  Financially strapped Jones and his sister Serena want to sell the estate, but first they must remove their uncooperative father Samuel to a nursing home.  Though he is not mentally what he once was, Samuel refuses to leave his home where generations of Riddell’s have resided since they made a fortune in timber.

Trevor hopes his parents reconcile as he misses having both parents.  Meanwhile, fascinated by the estate and his ancestry, the teen learns about his paternal family when he finds the diary of his late great-Uncle Ben’s lover Harry and of the curse that began with Samuel’s avarice grandfather Elijah.

A Sudden Light is a fascinating family drama that looks closely at several generations of Riddell’s still residing, some as ghosts, in the mansion as told by Trevor assisted by timely spirits’ soliloquys.  Although at times Trevor’s narration seems to mature and accepting for his youth (in spite of a coda explanation) more insight into the hauntings would be welcome. This is an intriguing epic.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Promise Beth Wiseman

The Promise
Beth Wiseman
Thomas Nelson, Sep 30 2014, $15.99
ISBN 9781401685959

Teen cousins Mallory and Kelsey were more like sisters ever since they were born three days apart.  However, Kels is dying and in desperate need of a kidney transplant.  Extensive tests prove Mallory is the only match and she plans to donate a kidney to save the life of her BFF.

A dozen years later to fulfill a vow she made to her late cousin, Mallory informs her parents and her boyfriend Tate that she will donate a kidney to save the life of Majida, the daughter of her Pakistani pen pal Abdul.  Her three loved ones fear for Mallory’s safety in Lahore, but she stubbornly travels to Pakistan.  In country, Mallory reluctantly agrees to wed Abdul so Majida can come to America for treatment.

Back in the States, music teacher Tate worries about recently orphaned Verdell, a student who steals things from the bathroom and never practices the piano.  Though he wishes he could help the grieving child, he has no idea how; matters turn worse when he becomes temporary guardian. 

Mallory’s altruistic willingness to travel to dangerous Pakistan and also marry there seems nearly over the top of K2 for a rational person whose late cousin would call her nuts; in spite of the Afterward informing the audience her subplot is based on a real person.  The Promise is a fascinating inspirational as Tate deals with a troubled tweener and Mallory struggles to help Majida and escape her own captivity.  Both turn to God to guide them through their crisis.

Harriet Klausner