Review

The Christmas Shoppe

by Melody Carlson

The small town of Parrish Springs has a new resident. Her name is Matilda Honeycutt, and she has just placed the winning bid on the unoccupied Barton Building. The townspeople are not happy about this, particularly Councilman George Snider, who wanted to purchase the building himself.

"Inside the covers of THE CHRISTMAS SHOPPE, you’ll be entertained with a hint of romance, a unique plot, and the enchantment of the holidays."

Matilda Honeycutt is not your typical Parrish Springs inhabitant. She wears eccentric clothes, has long, gray, hippie-style hair, and goes barefoot in the middle of winter. Some say she’s a witch. Others say she’s a gypsy. And some just think she’s weird. The people wonder what Matilda intends to do with the building and what type of business she will open. Then a sign for “The Christmas Shoppe” goes up. But it quickly becomes clear that there will be no ornaments, gift wrap, garland, or other new Christmas items at this store. In fact, the shelves are lined with useless odds and ends --- stuff that’s old, worn out, dusty and broken. Who in the world would ever want to shop in a second-hand store filled with junk?

The people want Matilda out of their city. They are convinced she is devaluing Parrish Springs with her thrift store, and they turn to Susanna Elton, the new city manager and divorced mom who lives with her ex-mother-in-law, for help. Susanna agrees to talk to Matilda. Upon meeting her, she surprisingly takes a liking to the woman, although she can’t blame the people for their concern. But with the councilman breathing down her neck, she sets out to see what she can do. As she investigates her options a little further, she gets to know Tommy Thompson, owner of the town newspaper, who is trying to get the scoop on just who Matilta Honeycutt is and why she ended up in Parrish Springs. Susanna can’t deny her attraction to Tommy, but when he offends her, she pushes him away.

One by one, the people of Parrish Springs step into The Christmas Shoppe. During these visits, we see the kind of woman Matilda is. Her sweet spirit and soothing voice draw people in and cause them to look not only on the shelves of The Christmas Shoppe, but also inside themselves, for what they truly need -- not things, but something much more. And when they finally take the time to browse, none of them leave the same way they came in. Even ruthless George Snider and Susanna’s overbearing, critical, harsh mother-in-law seem to change overnight after visiting The Christmas Shoppe. No one can deny that something magical is happening inside Matilda’s store.

Author Melody Carlson has written approximately 200 books, several of those revolving around Christmas or the holidays. THE CHRISTMAS SHOPPE has a wonderful theme. The back cover copy is intriguing. The story itself is good and moves along at a nice pace. The one issue I personally had with it is the lack of character development. I tend to opt more for books featuring in-depth characters, with a deep point of view. Reading the novel, I felt as though the story was being told by an outsider looking in. Some readers enjoy this type of writing, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if you hope to truly relate to multi-dimensional characters, you may be disappointed.

However, if you’re looking for a nice, quick holiday read with an underlying mystical theme and Christian undertones, you’ll do well to pick up a copy of this book. Inside the covers of THE CHRISTMAS SHOPPE, you’ll be entertained with a hint of romance, a unique plot, and the enchantment of the holidays. Maybe you’ll also discover a new way of looking at things that, at first glance, seem like junk. And hopefully you’ll realize how God uses people we think of as “weird” to touch our lives in ways we never expected.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab on December 14, 2011

The Christmas Shoppe
by Melody Carlson