by Alice Wootson, contemporary (2001)
Arabesque, $5.99, ISBN 1-58314-249-5
Oh, this book puts me to sleep. Alice Wootson has a lovely style of writing that brings out the best in atmosphere and emotional melodrama, but Home For Christmas is as slow as a snail. It is basically a small miscommunication error that could have taken two chapters to work out and by chapter three everyone could have been SUVing off into the sunset.
Jeffrey Hamilton is a chemist/engineer who has made a fortune, maybe two, in his enterprises. But he is not a happy man. A long time ago, he gave up his girlfriend Sheila Miller for his dreams in Houston. Now he's back in their small Philadelphia town, hoping to make things right with Sheila again. That's it.
Jeff spends the first few chapters reminiscing. Then he bumps into Sheila, and mistakes her two nieces for her kids. He agonizes about could've-beens (more chapters) and after what seems an eternity, learns the truth: Sheila is single. He decides to court her after what seems another eternity of reminisces, flashbacks, and nostalgia binges.
Then it's her turn to reminisce, flashback, and ponder. My hair fall off my head and they start measuring me for my coffin. Dang, I hope I reach the end of this story before I hit the grand three-oh-oh.
Finally they date. The ice caps thaw, and the ocean levels rise, drowning half the word. I sit on Mount Everest and hope I will finish this story before I freeze to death.
They kiss. The aliens have landed. We now live in colonies in Alpha Centauri. I wonder if hyperspace technology will speed up this story. Maybe I can... nah, no peeking towards the end.
The consummation. The marriage. The end. My long-decayed mummified corpse give a gasp of relief and finally, my spirit merrily travels along this tunnel towards the light at the end, free at last.
All the annoying standing-there-and-reminisce posturings aside, this story has an annoying conflict. Sheila just will not give in. She does not want to let Jeff have any say at all in their relationship. He is so wrong to go to Houston and follow his dream instead of staying in town and cater to Sheila's ridiculous I-want-to-live-and-marry-and-die-here nonsense. Can't there be middle ground? Why is Sheila so insistent on living in town anyway? What's wrong with some change of scenery? For an educated woman, Sheila comes off as rather clueless. In the end, poor Jeff has to break down his pride and admit that yes, he is so wrong to move to Houston. He is so wrong to make all that money that will no doubt make Sheila happier than hell now.
Good writing aside, Home For Christmas is too slow and too thin on plot. I can't finish more than ten pages at one go without falling asleep. When I do finish it, my feeling is more akin to relief that this chore is over. Now to play some Nintendo.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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