Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past by Sharyn McCrumb

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past: A Ballad NovellaNora Bonesteel's Christmas Past: A Ballad Novella by Sharyn McCrumb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fans of Sharyn McCrumb's ballad series need wait no longer for a new Nora Bonesteel story. NORA BONESTEEL'S CHRISTMAS PAST offers McCrumb at her best with two parallel stories centered around Christmas Eve.

In the primary story, Nora Bonesteel, she with the Sight, welcomes a new family in the old Honeycutt place next to her family home on the mountain. Summer people have decided to spend the holiday season instead of returning to Florida. Shirley Haverty wants to be friends with Nora but lacks knowledge of mountain traditions. She's too pushy at first, although she gradually backs off. When she arrives on Nora's doorstep one morning with a tale of her house being haunted, Nora invites her in, listens to the story and has an idea about what is happening in the parlor over at the Honeycutt mansion. She's sure her old friend is keeping a promise to be home by Christmas. The promise was made in the Second World War.

A parallel story involving the sheriff and his deputy takes the two on a trip up a mountain just as bad weather sets in. Pressured by a prominent politician to arrest a man for hitting his wife's car over in Tennessee and running from the accident send the two men on a journey they aren't likely to forget. They find their quarry, an old man living in a rundown farm house, at the end of a gravel lane. When they try to get the man to go with them, he agrees but is concerned for his aging wife. She needs firewood. A window in the bathroom lets in icy air. The two lawmen help split and stack firewood and reglaze the window. Darkness comes early. Before they can leave, the old man notices his cattle have gotten out of the barn. Again, the two lawmen help.

I won't tell you what happens in either story, but long-time fans will not be disappointed. The richness of McCrumb's detail, her deep knowledge of mountain tradition, her acknowledgement that prying is a breach of good manners combine to bring us a heartwarming read.

Yes, it's about Christmas. More, it's about human nature.

Received through NetGalley before I bought the book for my collection.

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