I suspect a collection of stories on a single topic by nearly any other writer would quickly become tedious, even if the individual stories were good. Yet with Willis, the whole becomes even greater than the sum of its parts. While there's no single masterpiece here (in contrast, Willis's prior collection, Impossible Things, contains two of my all-time favorite stories, "Chance" and "Even the Queen"), Willis's skills at characterization and dialogue and her ability to bring home a strong message through seemingly light-hearted tales have never been more in evidence.
I thought six of the stories in this collection were very good, ranging from funny: "Miracle" (a woman is pestered by a Christmas spirit much less helpful than one would expect) and "Newsletter" (everyone's remarkable good Christmas cheer is apparently attributable to alien invaders); to satirical: "In Coppelius's Toyshop" (a self-absorbed heel gets lost in a FAO Schwartz-style toy store); to wistful: "Adaptation" (a divorced father spends a bittersweet Christmas with characters from Dickens's "A Christmas Carol") and "Epiphany" (a minister is led far from home by a vision); to even a fun whodunit: "Cat's Paw" (an enjoyably pompous sleuth attempts to solve a murder - this is only a Christmas story in that the murder occurs on Christmas Eve). Even the other two stories, "Inn" (on Christmas Eve, a member of the church choir helps two travelers a very long way from home) and "The Pony" (everyone seems to be getting just what they want for Christmas), while not as strong, showed enough touches of Willis's flair to impress.Unless you're a Scrooge, this is a book you'll want to return to over many a Christmas yet to come.
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|Copyright © 2000 Aaron Hughes|