Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Review: 1225 Christmas Tree Lane

Happy Christmas Reads Week!

I know the calendar says Halloween is still two weeks away and Thanksgiving comes before Christmas. But my TBR shelf is nonetheless rapidly filling with Christmas books. I’ve already reviewed An O’Brien FamilyChristmas by Sherryl Woods and BringMe Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr. This week I’m going to review five other Christmas books I’ve read. If you love Christmas books as much as I do, check back each day for the rest of the week for a new Christmas book review. And don’t worry, there are still many left to share with you in December. Who better to begin this special week than Debbie Macomber who takes us home to Cedar Cove for Christmas.

1225 Christmas Tree Lane
By Debbie Macomber
Publisher: Mira
Release Date: September 27, 2011
4.5 Stars (from a sentimental series fans)
3 Stars (from an objective reviewer with an eye toward the new-to-series reader)

Debbie Macomber began her Cedar Cove series a decade ago with 16 Lighthouse Road in which readers met Judge Olivia Lockhart as the pivotal character, In that first book Judge Lockhart denied a divorce to Cecilia and Ian Randall, added  a love interest to her own life, and worried about her daughter Justine making a bad choice, the stubbornness of Charlotte, her aging mother, and her friend Grace’s desperation over a missing husband. Twelve books later (plus a novella and an “extra” Christmas novel) Macomber ends the series with 1225 Christmas Tree Lane. Olivia and company make appearances in the final book as do most of the other characters from the long-running series.

The focus of the twelfth book is Beth Morehouse for whom Christmas is unusually hectic given the success of her Christmas tree farm, the anticipated arrival of her two daughters, and the responsibility for ten lab mix puppies that need homes.  As if life were not chaotic enough, her college-aged daughters, scheming to reunite their divorced parents, have manipulated both parents into agreeing that dad will spend the holidays with the family. His arrival with a beautiful “very good friend” was not part of their plan. Neither was Beth’s warm friendship with the local vet.

It is fitting that a series which has devoted so much attention to marriage in all its stages should end with the focus on Beth and her ex Kent whose divorce was free of drama and recriminations. This marriage could be labeled “Canceled due to lack of interest.” Reading about how they lost one another and drifted apart reminded me of the closing lines from Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem “The Spring and the Fall”: “’Tis not love’s going hurts my days, / But that it went in little ways.” The question is whether two people who let love go can recapture the feelings they once shared.

While Beth and Kent’s story is central, finding homes for the puppies and the gatherings that are part of a Cedar Cove Christmas allow for the appearance of characters from earlier books. I didn’t check off names, but all of the characters I remembered show up in a credible fashion. Readers have an opportunity to be updated on the changes in the lives of their favorites, all of whom we feel certain will continue to live happily.

The novel closes with a one-sentence paragraph: “It was the kind of town anyone would love to call home.” That’s a fitting tribute for the town that brought Macomber’s career to a new level and gave her hometown a festival that attracted national and international visitors. It’s a town that readers have taken to their hearts, and surely there could be no better ending than Christmas when family and friends gather, happy to be home for the holiday.

You will note that I gave the book two grades. I loved the book. Even though some of the inclusions of earlier characters seemed contrived, I was so delighted to see the characters that I barely blinked as the numbers rolled on. I expect most fans of the series will react in a similar manner. But this is not a book for a reader new to the series. I can only imagine that such a reader would be confused and irritated by the more than sixty characters. New readers will do better to start with the first book and enjoy the full journey.   

How do you feel about Christmas books? Have you read any of the 2011 releases?

1 comment:

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