Richard Paul Evans
Simon and Schuster
"There are stories, Christmas stories that are stored away like boxes of garlands and frosted glass ornaments, to be brought out and cherished each year. I've come to believe that my story is a Christmas story. For it has forever changed the way I see Christmas."
The Christmas season is supposed to be full of joy, but not for Mark Smart. Life had dealt him one blow after another until one snowy November night, when he finds a beautiful young woman who will change his life forever. Macy Wood has little memory of her birth parents, and memories she'd rather forget of her adopted home. A Christmas ornament inscribed with the word "Noel" is the only clue to the little sister she only vaguely remembers, a clue that will send her and Mark on a journey to reclaim her past, and her family.
As you can tell by now, I love Christmas books. They inspire and uplift me spiritually. And I really loved The Mistletoe Promise, another of Richard Paul Evans' works. But Finding Noel just didn't fully click with me. Oh, don't get me wrong, I liked the heroine fine. Macy is a survivor, in and out of foster care, a terrible adoption experience, and she's still a compassionate soul.
I really didn't care much for Mark until the very end and a good portion of the book is written in the 1st person from his perspective. He has some good insights, yes, but overall he seemed whiny and, well, young and foolish. Which he was, but my patience with that type of character minimizes the older I become. Honestly, since the title of the book is really about Macy's life, it should have focused more on her. If it had been solely from her perspective, I probably would have loved it.
After all, the book is called Finding Noel, but that really wasn't the entire focus of the story. And it should have been. Instead it sort of wanders here and there, touching a life, having an experience, falling in love, to the point where the character of Noel felt almost like an after-thought. It just didn't work.
However, the final few chapters of the book are very inspirational and uplifting, which is why I give it four stars. Mark does grow through encountering Macy, just as she grows, and he admits that the season when they looked for Noel taught him perspective, about himself, about others, about resentments he had once held, and about forgiveness he needed to extend. That was an important lesson he needed to learn, and it was a very satisfying moment in the book when he reconciles with his estranged father.
Even though I wasn't 100% sold on Finding Noel, I still recommend it to people who might have experience as a foster child, an adopted child, or perhaps you find yourself struggling to forgive someone who has wronged you in the past and you're holding onto resentment. My not loving this story simply means that it wasn't meant for me. Maybe it's meant for you.
The following quote is by Mark, the last paragraph of the book.
And perhaps, after all the songs and poems and stories of the season, Christmas is really no more than that - humanity's search for the familiar. Every year we bring out the same songs, partake of the same foods and traditions, and share the things that make us feel that there's someplace we belong. And in the end all any of us are looking for is home.
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