In Christmas Letters Debbie Macomber says what every mother of young children has wanted to say to the childless who are full of “helpful” advice on child-raising. As a mother, I got the distinct feeling that Ms. Macomber had also been in the position of receiving unwanted “help” as her child “acted out” in the grocery store.
Dr. Wynn Jeffries is the author of The Free Child, a child-rearing manual that Katherine (K.O.) O’Connor blames for turning her twin nieces into complete brats. When K.O. spots the author in her local café, she decides to give him a piece of her mind and follows him, only to discover he lives in her apartment building. She decides to trap him at the coffeeshop and publicly tell him what she thinks of his child-rearing principles. Her plan works well and she is satisfied that she told him what she thought, causing him to flee the coffeeshop in embarrassment. Imagine their horror when both discover they are invited to their neighbor’s “party” as the only guests.
When both Wynn and K.O. try to resist their neighbor LaVonne’s machinations, she explains that they have dinner reservations at one of New York’s most exclusive restaurants. Since they both want to eat at the restaurant to which it is almost impossible to get reservations, they decide to discuss everything but child-raising and try to enjoy their dinner. Not surprisingly, K.O. and Wynn each find the other attractive and interesting.
Wynn turns out to be a child raised by hippies. His dad Max, formerly known as “Moon Puppy”, is a famous surfer now rich from a board wax formula. Wynn followed his parents from their commune home to various surfing contests until he happily went to live with his grandparents who provided the stability his parents would not.
Wynn’s book reflects his feelings about the good choices he made as a child and imputes that innate good sense to all children. He thinks they will make good choices about their bedtime, food, and so on if given their head. Frankly, his theories gave me a good laugh as I thought about a son who would have eaten nothing but candy and stayed up watching TV all night if given that choice. I am sure others will get a giggle over his book as well.
K.O. is a medical transcriptionist with a nice sideline writing Christmas letters for a price. Some of her customer’s lives call for great creativity in the wording of the letters. K.O.’s euphamisms and twists to make the bad look good are extremely amusing. I think all readers will empathize with those who had an annus horribilus and need K.O.’s touch to make their lives sound better then they are.
K.O. loves her sister’s twins, but has watched them change from nicely behaved children into complete brats as her sister practices the “gospel” of The Free Child. K.O.’s biggest complaint is about a chapter called “Bury Santa Under His Sleigh” in which Wynn advises parents to tell children the truth about Santa and the tooth fairy, leaving K.O. furious that Wynn wants to take Santa out of Christmas. After trading kisses, beginning to fall in love, and meeting Max, K.O. convinces Wynn to accompany her while she babysits her nieces overnight. Wynn comes face to face with the results of his parenting plan and to say he doesn’t take his findings well is an understatement.
I especially liked Macomber’s resolution of Wynn’s moments of crisis – she did not rely on any of the tried and trite devices of too many romances, but let the resolution come out of the innate good sense and likability of the characters.
Wynn and K.O. are both very attractive likable people and I enjoyed their story. I also loved the secondary romance that got off to a very bad start between LaVonne, her cat Tom, and Max. Christmas Letters is a light soufle perfect for the holidays; not a lot of meat and potatoes angst and drama here, but who wants that at this time of year?