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December 10, 2019

Karen White’s Magical Christmas Gift

We are kicking off this year’s Holiday Author Blog series with New York Times bestselling author Karen White, whose festive new novel is THE CHRISTMAS SPIRITS ON TRADD STREET. One of Karen’s top 10 favorite books is Helen Hooven Santmyer’s “…AND LADIES OF THE CLUB,” which her college roommate, Nancy, gave her for Christmas during their junior year. She soon became lost within its pages, and not even a ski trip to Switzerland with her family could take her away from this epic novel (all 3.2 pounds of it!). In this first blog post of the holiday season, Karen explains why this book, which she has reread several times over the years, holds such a special place in her heart.


When I am asked for a list of my top 10 favorite books, “…AND LADIES OF THE CLUB” by Helen Hooven Santmyer holds a special place on that list. My college roommate, Nancy, gifted me with this epic novel (all 3.2 pounds of it!) for Christmas our junior year. At the time, my parents were living in the Netherlands, and I looked forward to the post-exam downtime and the endless reading time ahead of me. I’m a slow reader, preferring to savor and reread as I go along, sometimes closing the book so I can absorb the emotions, so the holidays were the perfect time to dive into a thick book.

I started reading on the long flight from Atlanta to the Hague, barely looking up the entire time, and almost disappointed when we arrived because I was still reading. My father surprised us with a ski trip to Switzerland over the holiday, and although I loved to ski, I was in the grips of this amazing book and didn’t want to stop. Each morning I’d wake up and do a single run on the slopes, then retire back to the lovely lodge and park myself in front of the fire with my book, hot chocolate and Toblerone, and read the rest of the day.  My dad was less than thrilled at how I spent my ski vacation, but it couldn’t be helped. I was lost within the pages of this wonderful novel and didn’t want to be found.

I continued to read the entire train ride home to the Hague, and finished it soon after our return. But, as with all those lovely books we remember most, the characters lingered in my head, forcing me to reread favorite parts and prohibiting me from picking up another book right away. As avid readers will recognize, this is a sign that a book is meant for the Keeper Shelf.

All these years later, I still have that book in pride of place on my bookshelf. I have reread it several times and still find it as magical as the first time I read it as a 21-year-old. It is inscribed with “Merry Christmas, Karen” and the year, and signed by Nancy. She and I now live in different states, and no longer exchange Christmas presents, but we are still close friends: she was one of my maids of honor at my wedding, and I sang at hers. While on book tour in her city, she even hosted me at her book club to discuss my book.

We both lead very busy lives, and holidays spent doing nothing but reading are a much-lamented thing of the past. However, we make a point to get together once a year at the beach, each bringing a stack of books to read and share. It’s a brief respite from the rest of our lives, where we can binge on books once again without intrusion from the rest of the world.

Not all of my friends are readers, but I have found that sometimes the best friendships are built on a shared passion like a love of books, and destined to last forever.