When your car has just been repossessed, and you don’t know where you can scare up the rent, getting a second job is a very obvious thing to do. A second job as a Christmas coordinator is not so obvious.
Especially for Merry Hopper. Abandoned by her parents on Christmas Day, she had never experienced a real family Christmas. Nor did she ever coordinate a Christmas for anyone besides herself and her cat. When you really consider it, her only qualification for being a Christmas coordinator was that her name was Merry.
And, I suppose, that she loved Christmas.
Merry’s Christmas is a romance. Romance is not my usual genre, but I have enjoyed romance novels when they cross with other genres: historical fiction (Masquerade, by Nancy Moser) and comedy (Boo Hiss, by Rene Gutteridge). Merry’s Christmas is in the style of comedy – and a Christmas tale.
Merry’s Christmas is deeply felt, yet lighthearted; there is no real villain. The characters felt real, and even the third point in the love triangle is ultimately a person who can be understood. I would like to highlight two particular triumphs in this area: first, the nine-year-old boy, because he seems like a nine-year-old boy. It is a challenge for adults to write children, to find that level of intelligence and maturity truly appropriate. Susan Rohrer doesn’t trip on that snag.
The second, much more significant triumph is the heroine of the story, Merry. She’s a thoroughly sympathetic character: highly intuitive on an emotional level, a born nurturer, determinedly sweet – and yet there is something hardy, and almost heroic, in how happy she can be after all her troubles. Angst is prevalent in modern fiction; I appreciate the unfussy sadness of this heroine – and even more that she can pluck up her heart to be grateful and even optimistic.
Merry’s Christmas was first written as a screenplay, and you can tell. The brisk, efficient set-up puts one in mind of a movie. The style is gently omniscient, and does not – as many people say of the omniscient viewpoint – compromise closeness to the characters.
The screenplay-origin may also be seen in the chief failing of the novella: a little too much telling instead of showing. Skilled actors convey emotions and thoughts through tones of voice, expressions, body language, a glance in the right direction at the right time. Novelists, too, must give indirect but clear signals.
Merry’s Christmas is a hopeful story, as all Christmas stories ought to be. Its characters are winning, its plot simple as it aims, straight and true, for the heart. Merry’s Christmas turns on incredible changes of fortune – and that, in a Christmas-tide story, is stirringly appropriate.
I received a review copy of this novella from the author.