Book 61 of 52: Christmas by the Book by Anne Marie Ryan

My dad gave me a copy of Christmas by the Book by Anne Marie Ryan as one of my Christmas presents last year. And while it looked interesting, the over-saturation of the holiday that I feel around about December 27 meant I wasn’t keen on reading it then. So I put it aside, and didn’t really look at it again until this month. Why not, I thought, since it once again ’tis the season.

The novel starts with Nora and Simon, a married couple who run an independent bookstore in the Cotswalds, a rural part of England. The shop, which Nora inherited from her mother, is struggling. She hasn’t told Simon how bad it is because of a recent health scare, despite everyone — including his doctor — saying he was doing perfectly well.

Simon gets the vibe that the shop is not doing well, but he shies away from asking Nora to see the full truth. But, one night in the run up to Christmas, he posts on the store’s social media pages, asking for suggestions of who could use a bit of cheering that holiday season. They’d then give away six books to six people they chose.

The rest of the novel sticks with Nora and Simon, but also fans out to include those six people, including a retired school teacher, an out of work single dad, a workaholic, and a depressed politician.

Nothing about what happened was surprising, but this book was more than the cheesy Christmas novel I thought it would be. I cared a lot about those six people, and about Nora and Simon too. Ryan also managed to put in serious issues, including locals being priced out by wealthy people looking for second homes, vehicular violence, suicide, and grief. Given that my holidays are marred by that last one, I appreciated a pleasant read but one that that still felt real.

And with that, I wish you all a very happy holidays!

Nail polish: Rebel with a Clause by OPI.

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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.

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