From Publishers Weekly
No heartstring goes untugged in this slim but moving Christmas story from award-winning journalist, screenwriter, bestselling novelist and children's book author Mitchard (Twelve Times Blessed; The Rest of Us; The Most Wanted). It's December 23, and Elliott Banner and his wife, Laura, are celebrating their 14th wedding anniversary with a romantic dinner at a good Italian restaurant and a performance of the Cirque du Soleil. Soon after the show, their car breaks down in a Boston tunnel, and Elliott's beloved is stricken with a crippling headache that sends them to a nearby hospital. After a physical exam and an MRI, compassionate, fatherly Dr. Campanile advises them to call the family together; Laura has a brain hemorrhage. "Now, how can I say this? It is too late. She will die, and I am sorry beyond an ability to tell you." Laura has 24 hours to live, which takes them to Christmas Eve. The clan gathers: Laura and Elliott's three young daughters, Annie, Rory and Amelia; Laura's mother, Miranda; her two sisters, Suzanne and Angela; and her feckless brother, Stephen. After a loving recap of a life well lived (including a surprise secret), everyone gets a final hug and a kiss from Laura. What could easily have become a quicksand of sentimentality is saved by Mitchard's straightforward writing, which is poignant rather than mawkish, sometimes mordant and, despite the theme of the story, surprisingly humorous. Laura does die, something the reader knows will happen from the very beginning. Her death is undeniably sad, but a final chapter offers the bereft Elliott and his three daughters the Christmas present Laura promised would be theirs: hope for the future.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
It's Christmas, and Elliot and Laura are driving home from celebrating their fourteenth wedding anniversary when their car breaks down. As they wait for a tow truck, Laura suddenly cries out in pain and begs to go to the hospital, saying that her head feels as though it's on fire. Elliot sits in the hospital, baffled by his wife's uncharacteristic response to what he's sure is only a migraine. Then the doctor arrives and gently informs him that an aneurysm has burst, and Laura will die in a matter of hours. Numb with shock and grief, Elliot gathers their family around her bedside for a last Christmas Eve together. Family catastrophes are Mitchard's stock-in-trade, and Laura's good-byes to Elliot and her daughters are rendered in the same probing and reflective dialogue Mitchard is known for. Ultimately, though, the book reads more like a sketch for a larger novel than a fully realized story; the anguish depicted in the hospital scenes is so palpably real that the resolution in the final chapter seems rushed and unconvincing. Expect high demand. Meredith Parets
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