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The Christmas Light


The Christmas Light

I’ve always been a pushover for Christmas stories, because they make me feel “warm and cuddly.” THE CHRISTMAS LIGHT fills both of these slots as Donna VanLiere’s proclivity for family values is captured here. As she tells this heartwarming and inspirational tale, it becomes apparent that life happens not always on our terms, but as it should. By displaying a natural talent for sensitivity, VanLiere has created an enlightening narrative that illuminates the power of love and faith without any “Pomp and Circumstance.” Proving that possibilities can be right in front of you --- when you place “one foot in front of the other” without losing ground --- she is able to turn family tragedies into quintessential triumphs. Subsequently, by allowing her characters to share their vulnerabilities, this story becomes relatable and realistic, which is the ultimate goal of any writer.

"By displaying a natural talent for sensitivity, VanLiere has created an enlightening narrative that illuminates the power of love and faith without any 'Pomp and Circumstance.'"

Understanding the dynamics of a small town can be tricky, but this story masterfully develops parallels between the community of Grandon and five very different inhabitants who are struggling to find the truest meaning of Christmas. Single parents Ryan and Jen are grieving their losses as they attempt to get on with their lives, raising two daughters in life-changing situations. Moving forward seems almost impossible --- as they try to hold on to the love, memories and joys of times past --- since heartache is still so much a part of their present lives. (“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton)

Then there is 16-year-old Kaylee, who is facing a decision and an uncertain future that will affect her whole family. In her own mind she feels isolated and alone, which diminishes her chances of making wise decisions, but also makes her vulnerable and yet receptive to a helping hand. (“Where I am, I don’t know. I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” ~ Samuel Beckett)

On the other end of the spectrum are Stephen and Lily, a happily married couple unable to have a child of their own and hoping to adopt one day. Unfortunately, the chances of this happening are not in their favor, and they are adapting to life without a child --- or so they say. (“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.” ~ Virginia Woolf)

Finding their way through the dark is the goal of each character in this novel, and meeting their own struggles head-on is the only way they can accomplish this. Luckily, VanLiere has provided an additional cast of characters --- Miriam, Gloria, Gabrielle and a set of troublemaking triplets --- to provide comic relief and sensibility to her plot, broadening the scope and depth of each one.

Interestingly enough, even though each character in THE CHRISTMAS LIGHT seems to be traveling on his or her own journey, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Whether or not you believe in “predestination,” this story is full of “believe it or nots” with an emphasis on “all events have been willed by God.” So when they all come together for an unorthodox Christmas program in the community church, it’s not surprising when they learn that with strength, courage and love, there is always hope. (“Sometimes our light goes out but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light. ~ Albert Schweitzer)

Reviewed by Donna Smallwood on October 17, 2014

The Christmas Light
by Donna VanLiere

  • Publication Date: October 14, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250010659
  • ISBN-13: 9781250010650