When my daughter and her husband bought their first home, they took possession of a mid-century time capsule–with original furnishings and trinkets and decor from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. The couple who built and owned the home never had children and didn’t upgrade their decor much from what they started out with.
So, as I helped to clear out this treasure-trove of vintage goodies, I was delighted to find a cabinet filled with mid-century Christmas kitsch.
And–a host of bells. Christmas bells. Sleigh bells.
Handcrafted brass bells. And even–a book all about bells!
They now grace the Christmas wonderland in my home each year–and, this year in particular, have been an inspiration during my Advent meditations.
So, when hubby and I checked off our gift list at Barnes & Noble this past weekend, right after we’d shared the aforementioned Advent meditation in church Sunday morning, I was attracted to the store front display of Christmas Bells, by Jennifer Chiaverini, released on October 27th.
Jennifer has given creative women, quilters, and lovers of cozies a plethora of book candy in her super-successful series of Elm Creek Quilters books beginning with The Quilter’s Apprentice–20 of them, in fact. There are companion quilt pattern books, too. Small town relationships, history, and beautiful works of art woven with thread and needle are just the thing for warm reading on long winter days. Read more about them here.
Then, there’s her historical fiction books detailing more about the friendships of women in American history set in the Civil War era. Expect more quilts and expertly woven historical details in engaging stories. Check out the details here.
But, it’s Christmas!
If you’re looking for the best of historical fiction and contemporary small town character driven plot lines in a warm cozy read, you want to fill your reading corner with Christmas Bells.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow‘s poem, Christmas Bells, inspired me to write about the Advent theme of PEACE. It was penned at the height of the Civil War in the midst of his own battle for personal peace, to overcome tragic loss in a time of war. What a powerful setting against which to place a novel of the same name. Jennifer’s thorough grasp of Civil War history, proved in her nine historical fiction novels set in that era, shine again.
But, Jennifer takes up her thread and needle weaving together two tales, separated by more than 150 years, into one compelling read. Her storytelling connects Longfellow’s search for peace in a time of war and personal crisis, to a handful of residents preparing for a Christmas concert, searching for the same in our contemporary time of men gone to war and personal crisis. Longfellow’s residence at the time of the Civil War in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is the setting for each.
Beginning with the contemporary story line, the young music director of the church choir learns, on the eve of Christmas break, that she will lose her teaching job at the end of the school year. Every other chapter continues her story with a clever change in point of view. We see the plot develop through the eyes of the piano accompanist whose heart she’s stolen, a family missing husband and father with boots on the ground in Afghanistan, a widow, a priest, and a delightful nun ministering to the flock. Trials and brokenness intrude on the gaiety of the season even as Christmas bells ring out “peace on earth”.
The Longfellow story is seen through his eyes only. And the lens of the historian. The timeline of history unrolls with details from Fort Sumter through to the eclipsing moment when Longfellow takes his pen to paper and marks out a legacy of faith and resolve in critical times.
Wild and sweet these Christmas Bells repeat. Critical times intrude on the gaiety of the season and I find myself caught up in their story, too, this Christmas 2015. Who hasn’t seen the tumultuous headlines and said, with Longfellow, “there is no peace on earth”?
Even so, the troublesome conflicts in Christmas Bells don’t sensationalize to disturb. A tender hand crafts the tale with equal measures of conflict and comfort. Resolve and healing will follow unrest and loss. And we can safely enjoy the ride–with sleigh bells ringing–dashing through the snows of a Christmas storm, warmed by a concert of children’s voices lifted in song . . . singing . . . ringing . . .
There is yet hope.
On her website, Jennifer remarks how all her works are available for movie adaptations. This one feels like the next best choice for the Hallmark Channel. If optioned by an ambitious screenwriter, director, or producer, and brought to the screen–I’ll be watching.
Sharing Book Review: Christmas Bells this week with:
Not Just Homemaking Party at Hope in Every Season
Fellowship Fridays at Christian Mommy Blogger
Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound