Book Review: The Christmas Shoppe by Melody Carlson
The small town of Parrish Springs is not ready for Matilda Honeycutt. A strange older woman with scraggly gray hair and jewelry that jangles as she walks, Matilda is certainly not the most likely person to buy the old Barton Building on the town's quaint main street. When it becomes apparent that her new shop doesn't fit the expectations of Parrish Springs residents, a brouhaha erupts. After all, Christmas is approaching, and the last thing the town needs is a junky shop run by someone who looks and acts like a gypsy. But as townsfolk venture into the strange store, they discover that old memories can bring new life and healing.
Once again, Melody Carlson delivers a Christmas story that will touch hearts and delight the senses. Sure to be a classic, The Christmas Shoppe is filled with the special magic the best Christmas stories share--that intangible mixture of nostalgia, joy, and a little bit of magic.
This story succeeds on the strength of its characters, mainly Tommy Thompson, the newspaperman, and Susanna Elton, the city manager. Both of these characters are endearing, Tommy especially, and I appreciated watching a man go from hating Christmas to appreciating it. A little like Scrooge, you might say, but not sooooooo Scrooge-like.
Each of the people who interact with Matilda Honeycutt have their lives changed for the better. She knows exactly what they need to help them deal with painful memories from the past, things that give them anger management issues, trust issues, commitment issues, you name it. Even the "villain" Councilman Snider undergoes a transformation of the heart before the end of the book.
We, the readers, know that Matilda must be an angel, especially since no one can recollect when she arrived in town or when she finally left, just that she helped them while she was there, whether they wanted her help or not.
The story is sweet, but not overly saccharine, and it really focuses on not letting big businesses run small businesses out of town, something I believe in very strongly. While I will do my fair share of shopping at Walmart, when it gets right down to it, I'm more excited to be in a little shop run by locals than a major franchise that I can wander in for hours because I can't find the exit. *cough, Ikea, cough*
The Christmas Shoppe is by no means as permanent as A Christmas Carol, but it is a delightful way to spend an evening, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to readers who enjoy light, fun Christmas fiction sprinkled with a hint of faith.
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