By Edie Hand with Jeffery Addison
Parkway Publishers, Inc., 2009
Reviewed by Julia OliverThis compact family saga in the Ride series from North Carolina’s Parkway Publishers is beautifully packaged. The cover art looks like a tranquil Christmas card, with its fir-green background, snow-white lettering, and touches of gilt. But the lyrical subtitle, The Miracle of Lights, is somewhat of a misnomer for the angst-ridden narrative that lies in wait inside the covers.
The Warners of Boulder, Colorado, have a tradition of leaving their home on Christmas morning, driving across the Great Divide, and spending the rest of the holiday week in a condominium in the Rockies. The six numbered chapters and an Epilogue begin with italicized statements. The opener is the most intriguing: The first time she saw the mountain was on a Christmas night, at the end of an argument none of them would later remember.
The timeline begins when the Warner siblings are young teenagers. Tim and Julie would prefer to stay at home and enjoy the gifts they’ve just opened. They don’t really like to ski, the condo will be tight quarters, and their parents don’t get along with each other. Dad, who insists on taking this vacation each year, is a workaholic who inevitably leaves them up there and goes back to Boulder to deal with a crisis at the office. Mom is the long-suffering peacemaker. Tim finds an activity he greatly enjoys— horseback riding to the top of a particular mountain, to see a spectacular view of lights—and introduces his sister to it.
The next year, when their father is not there, these two take their mother on the horse trail to view the lights, and for her, the phenomenon triggers a mystery that will provide some plot diversion. An inside flap of the dust jacket states that the book is "about sharing the miracle of the season, and the wondrous display of lights is the perfect metaphor"—but for me, the elusive, mountainous terrain is the apt metaphor, since it correlates with the sketchy display of family dysfunction. Tim faults his mother when the parents divorce, and he refuses to communicate with her after he goes away to college. A tragedy brings about a hair-raising journey by one family member to come to the aid of another.
The dust jacket’s promised "miracle of the season" may be that this Yuletide novella changes course during the last brief stretch and ends on a resoundingly positive note.
Edie Hand, who has starred in commercials and television dramas, lives in Jasper; her co-author Jeffery Addison (aka Don Keith, who has seventeen books in print), lives in Indian Springs. Dec 2009
Julia Oliver is a novelist, playwright, and journalist.