14 October 2014

Bibliotherapy at Christmas! A Review


Another Christmas Story by Susan Page Davis
Novella in The Westward Christmas Brides Collection by Barbour (2014)
Reviewed by Carrie Fancett Pagels

SPOILER ALERTS: I have a couple of spoilers in my review so if you don't read reviews with spoilers stop right now and just leave a comment to enter for the giveaway!


Bibliotherapy Galore!
For a short novella, Susan Page Davis's story packs a punch! The story starts right out with a bang as the heroine, Beryl, and her young brother, Sam. learn that their father has been seriously injured on their wagon train ride west. They are forced to take refuge in a nearby town and with the unlikely assistance of the store owners and their handsome son, James. Although Beryl has heard that Clara, the proprietor's wife, drives a hard bargain, the family is extremely generous to them, putting the little family of three (other family members died before the trip) up in a cabin they own. So far then, in the story, we had previous loss of family (grieving), relocating elsewhere, now severe life-threatening injury, and plans derailed.

Which makes one pause and ask--is this really a Christmas story? I think Susan Page Davis tagged it appropriately, almost tongue-in-cheek by calling it Another Christmas Story. This is a story about all the awful stuff that can still happen near the holidays. (The story does not terminate at Christmas, like most seasonal stories but continues on, again, a surprise in a novella of this length.)

Beryl's and James' romance is sweet and unfolds slowly. When her father dies and a difficult winter strikes, Beryl and Sam move in with James and Clara. This has a great boon for her brother because Sam benefits from instruction he receives with the Lassen family. Meanwhile, Mr. Lassen heads off to resupply their store.

There is a creepy episode that takes place at the store, with unwanted intruders. Again, not Christmas-like. And another tragedy in store. Again, not what one expects in a Christmas novella. BUT, Christmas doesn't come and go without there being many difficulties for many people. I think readers who are going through a hard time at Christmas might be able to relate to this story very well and draw comfort from the fact that it is so different.

This is NOT just Another Christmas Story. It is a story full of bibliotherapy elements. It's one of those stories where a friend might point out that particular novella to a friend who is suffering losses. And lest you fret--there is a happy ever after for the young couple.


Giveaway: We're giving away a copy of either ebook or paperback copy of The Westward Christmas Brides collection this week.
Question: Have you ever had an awful Christmas season? Did you read anything during that time that helped?


46 comments:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful review, CARRIE! I love spoiler alerts! :)

    Paul and I both had a terrible Christmas a couple of years ago. We both had a raunchy flu bug. Couldn't eat, laid around with a fever, no celebrating with family, no gkids, nothing. We were too sick to even read or watch tv. But a week later we celebrated with the gkids and they loved it b/c their Christmas lasted longer.

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    1. I remember that, Diana. That was so awful! I think that was maybe just last Christmas wasn't it? Hugs!~

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    2. Oh, Diana, we had a "sick" Christmas at our house too. It was so miserable! I'm glad you had a happy ending. It's funny in a way, because until I read Carrie's review, I didn't think of this story as being unusual for a Christmas novella.

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    3. Christmas before, Carrie. Because we were just thanking the Lord that we haven't been sick other than stomach bug for almost 2 yrs! Time sure flies, doesn't it? Course that big ole tumor I had made up for it I suppose. :/

      Unusual can be good, SUSAN!! Sick holidays are the worst...especially that one where we had the flu. It started on my b'day which is Dec. 20th! So no b'day celebration either! :(

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  2. No, I can't say that I have had a terrible Christmas season. There have been times when we couldn't afford much but then I would stop and think we have our family and we will be together. Even though my husband and I maybe would not exchange gifts we always were able to get our kids something and some of those Christmas's were the best.

    wfnren(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. You have been spared, Wendy! Blessings!

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    2. That's a wonderful way to look at it, Wendy. I'm sure a lot of people in the pioneer times had Christmases like that.

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  3. I don't think that I've ever had a horrible Christmas with my family.
    This book sounds interesting.
    oh.hello.hiya@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks, Danie. I hope people won't think it's all sad, because it's not. I hope readers will find it uplifting. Sounds as though Carrie took it that way, as she saw the strength of this family, even in hard times.

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    2. This story will be on my Bibliotherapy list for 2014, Danie, because when you are going through difficult times it can be really healing to read about other people coping with hard situations, too.

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  4. Thanks for your awesome review of Susan's novella "Another Christmas Story", included in "The Westward Brides Christmas Collection" - Carrie!! I don't mind spoiler alerts - they help entice me to read books which I might not, otherwise. And - with my age and memory, I'll probably have forgotten the alerts by the time I read the book, LOL!!

    I love books full of trials, difficulties, angst, emotion, and lots of bibliotherapy - they are a true reflection of real life and the lessons learned through God's love, provision and plans for His followers.

    I did have a very emotionally/mentally unpleasant and stressful Christmas when I was 20 years old - an experience too personal to relate here. I don't recall reading anything during that time which helped me - looking back, I'm sure that was a huge reason for my problems. Not trusting God to direct my life and give me comfort, assurance and answers for life's trials. There was another Christmas full of stress of me and a day of mixed emotions - pain and joy - for my mother: my first Christmas, I was born on Christmas Day!!

    Christmas has always been a special and favorite time of the year for me - the most important reason being the birth of my Lord and Savior and His care for me, even when I wasn't acknowledging my love for Him those many years ago!!

    I would love to read Susan's "Another Christmas Story" and all the other novellas in the wonderful "The Westward Christmas Brides Collection"!!

    Post shared!!

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    1. Bonnie, I have both a niece and a daughter-in-law born on Christmas Day. You're in good company! I'm glad you came through that awful time. God is so good to bring us through, isn't He?

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    2. Bonnie, I find Christmas stressful because of my RA and I had jaw surgery one year at Christmas. That was so difficult. I think if I had a story like this to have read at that time, I would have been encouraged by how the H/H got through horrendous times with God's help.

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  5. I love these novella collections! they are the perfect thing to read during the busy holiday season. My hardest Christmas was when my father was on the other side of the country in a research hospital on the edge of death while recovering from an autonomous stem cell transplant to cure a rare blood disease he had been diagnosed with. It was an emotional time for our family to be so separated when we had always been together for the holidays.

    colorvibrant at gmail dot com

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    1. That sounds super stressful, Heidi. We have moved away from my extended family, and I miss those big holiday gatherings. The memories are priceless.

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    2. That had to have been SO hard, Heidi. And this would have been a perfect read for you! Thanks for coming by!

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  6. Thank you for a super review! This book has me hooked! I would absolutely love it! A couple of Christmases my baby had pneumonia so our times weren't as good as usual. Many pages of Christmas stories were read!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks, Melanie. Oh, one of my babies had pneumonia when she was very small too, and my mother told me to take her to the doctor. I had thought it was just a bad cold. And when the kids grew older, it didn't stop. It seemed that when they went off to college, they always brought some bug home with them at Christmas break, and it would go through the whole family. I hope you all stay healthy this holiday season.

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  7. I read the spoilers. I couldn't help myself.

    I have never had an awful Christmas season. Even my first year away from home was OK. I was with good friends for the season.

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    1. My freshman year of college, my special great uncle Fred Williams died. My parents felt it was best to not tell me because it happened during my first week of exams. So they waited to tell me on the way home from college. They'd already had the funeral, etc., so I didn't really get closure. I really loved this great uncle and that was a sad time. I do think we need all kinds of stories at Christmas time even the sad ones. This does have a happy ending.

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    2. I think that first year without your family and the old traditions is one of the hardest. It was for me after I got married and moved 3,000 miles away.

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  8. I am happy to say that I don't recall any unhappy or awful Christmas seasons. I've had a couple lonely ones, but they really weren't so bad. My family used to live in the snow belt of Pennsylvania and it wasn't always possible to get together between Thanksgiving and Easter.
    When that would happen I would usually rent a few movies and spend the day curled up watching them.

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    1. One of my other difficult Christmas memories is when my mom first discovered she had cancer, when I was twelve. That was at Christmastime when my brother was home from college. I think it was really good we were all together when she hemorrhaged and she wasn't at home alone.

      Glad you didn't have any bad Christmases, Cindi. Hugs!

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  9. Hello everyone. It is getting close to Christmas isn't it? And, I love these sort of books during Christmas season. We did have two Christmases where their was a death in our family, First was a special sister dying in NOV. that year. She had cancer and when I was there shortly before she died, she was showing me things in her chest with Christmas gifts she'd gotten early and telling me which was for who. She was so strong and I was the one with tears in my eyes. Then one year just before Christmas my middle brother and wife lost their 2 mo. old baby. It was also on their Anniversary. We had to leave our kids, my brother, sister, and I to travel to OK. for the funeral. Saddest thing to see a baby passed away. We barely made it back for Christmas with our kids. It was real bad weather too, and my brother driving so sleepy. BUT, GOD watched over us. Then I had a sad and happy Christmas in 1958. I had to go to the Hospital to have my Christmas baby, but missed getting to see my other little ones get their Santa stuff and open their gifts. It was sad for the little ones but took my real live baby doll home the next morning. I would love to win this great book. Crossing my fingers like I did as a kid. LOL Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

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    1. Hey Maxie, I'd love for you to win it, too! I think you and I are among the few who will admit to having had some awful Christmases! But I think that is so sweet about a Christmas child. I bet the kids were so happy to have their new baby sister at home. Big hugs!!!

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    2. Maxie, I went through something similar with my Mom, making gifts before she died. It is such a bittersweet time.

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  10. Mine wasnt a terrible Christmas It was a terrible May.......my husband had just died And there were many holidays, birthdays and Memorial Day to deal with.........Gods comfort really helped.......
    God bless you for writing to people who had a hard time with a holiday
    Chris Granville
    granvilleATfrontiernetDOTnet

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    1. I look at the bibliotherapy aspect because of the need for these types of books, Chris. So sorry about your loss. You are such a sweet and encouraging person.

      Big hugs!

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    2. Chris, my heart aches for you just thinking about it. I hope there are better times ahead for you!

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  11. My worst Christmas was the year my youngest son was 18 months old. My elderly aunt was with us, and she was very difficult to get along with. My son had to go to the bathroom and was running (as kids do) and she didn't see him, bent over to pick something up and he accidentally ran into her. She got mad, yelled that he did it on purpuse and spanked him... I was so mad and upset. I'd never gone home for Christmas after that if she was going to be there. I don't remember any books I read at that time, but I would love to win this one!

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    1. Oh Laura, that is a bad memory. So sorry she was difficult. And what a bad memory for your child. Does your son even remember that? Big hugs!

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    2. Wow, we are mama bears when it comes to our cubs, aren't we? I hope you're making good Christmas memories now!

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  12. Trying again to enter a post. Loved the interview and would so love to win this wonderful contest. Thanks for offering it! Mary Lou K flowersmarylou85(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Sister Mary Lou!!! I'd love for you to win, too, as you are the sweetest nun in the whole wide world! Big hugs!!!

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    2. You got through, Mary Lou. Thanks for your kind words.

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  13. My Christmas Story is a good, gone bad, gone extremely blessed Christmas. Our sixth baby was born Dec 20. She was transferred to a Children's Hospital almost immediately after she was born. We didn't even get to hold her. The doctors wouldn't give a percent of her chances to live. But in God's amazing grace and mercy, she came home Christmas day. What a gift she is! shelfiky (at) aol (dot com)

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    1. What a wonderful ending for you all, Michele!

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  14. Thanks for the great review Carrie! No spoilers there for me as I've already this wonderful story, and book! :-) I loved the tension in this Christmas novella and the beautiful, happy ending!
    I don't recall ever having an awful Christmas. I do get thoroughly exhausted and feel unwell by the afternoon/evening and for about 2 days afterwards because of Chronic Fatigue, but I'll make the most of it anyways and don't let it stop me from going all out to try and make it special for everyone - because it's worth it!!

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    1. Thank you, Noela! I'm glad you have ways to cope because you don't want to miss that time with your family.

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  15. My family had a very difficult Christmas about a decade ago when my grandfather passed away on Christmas Eve. To make it worse that was the typical family gathering time for that side of the family so it forever changed when we celebrated Christmas. It was truly the end of an era and we still miss it. kosterbind (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. It's awful when you can see this specific time when everything changed at Christmas. We had that happen with our daughter, when some relatives moved. It just changed everything. Sad but part of life. Hugs and prayers.

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    2. Kelly, big hug. I understand that perfectly. The holidays do change when the family reconfigures. I hope you're making new traditions now.

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  16. The worst Christmas I had was when I was 14. It was my first Christmas without my Pappy. He was my best friend! He helped encourage my love for books and is a big reason why I still read as much as possible. He passed away from cancer a month and a half before Christmas, and it was a very difficult year for me.
    As an adult and parent, it makes me sad that I can't afford to buy a lot for my kids because I'm laid off work HOWEVER, the most important thing is that we will spend the holidays with family and I know that God will continue to meet our needs!!!
    Thanks so much for the chance to win!!! Much love!
    Cspicuzza83(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. That is so sad, Christina. You are exactly right--the thing is that you are there for your kids. Hugs!

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    2. I'm glad you have those great memories of your Pappy, Christina. I hope you and the kids have a good Christmas this year.

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  17. My awful Christmas was almost two years ago. My mother had just died from Alzheimer's and no one was in the mood to celebrate Christmas so we didn't.
    Janet E.

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