Reviewed by Marisa Deshaies
Adding another stellar book to an already impressive collection of stories, prolific and award-winning authors Tricia Goyer, Cara Putnam, and Sarah Sundin have written a compilation of World War II inspirational romances sure to please their fans and add new readers to their bases. Where Treetops Glisten is a novella of Christmas stories based upon the lyrics of three Christmas songs originating during World War II. Symbolism from the songs supports each author’s individual story, and the authors use their chosen songs as elements for their characters to utilize within the given plot. I enjoyed this creative twist to the creation of the novella because the authors—already renowned for their World War II knowledge—found a new way to connect historical fact with fiction.
Centered around a family of a mother and father, grandmother, and three young-adult children, Where Treetops Glisten is a novella of the Turner family of Lafayette, Indiana. Cara Putnam begins the novella with middle child Abigail’s story in White Christmas. Abigail, a perfectionist and caretaker figure, stays at home during the war to complete her degree and works part time at a candy shop to support herself as much as possible. She has sworn off men for the duration of the war to protect her broken heart; however, she learns in White Christmas that love is about much more about risk than protection when she comes across a broken young man in need of help. Set on the home front, the war itself does not factor into White Christmas as much as I was expecting—and wanting to experience—of a novella centered around World War II. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Putnam’s story because she did focus her plot on topics not touched upon often in stories from this time period. Jackson—the male protagonist—is fighting for his family’s farming livelihood; the details about the occupation and lifestyles of those who farmed during the Great Depression and World War II drove the story in an exciting way. Abigail, on the other hand, was a sweet and endearing character whose story was fun to watch unfold because of the dichotomy of her pragmatism and desire for love.
Moving on to the brother of the family, I’ll Be Home for Christmas is Pete Turner’s story of love and redemption. Pete returns from the European Theater a depressed and angry man looking to fill the holes life has made from years of bad choices and harsh consequences. Instructed by his pastor to give as a way to feel whole again, Pete never expects that the little girl he chose to give to would be the one to lead him to his fulfillment. Through caring for this little girl, reconnecting with her mother, and learning through experiences with them about God’s role in his life, Pete finds the redemption he needs to become his best man. I’ll Be Home for Christmas’s author, Sarah Sundin is by far a favorite of mine for both her World War II storylines and her writing itself, so this story is the one I looked forward to the most (with no offense meant to the other authors). My assumption was correct, since I fell in love with Pete and his leading lady; keenly felt the emotions the characters experienced; and related to Sundin’s theological lesson about fulfillment through God alone. Her writing sings and her love for the time period, history, and her characters shines off the page.
With the baby of the family, Goyer spins a tale of honest and forgiveness in Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Meredith “Merry” Turner is aptly named for her cheerful disposition and love of Christmas. The youngest sister who desires to stand upon her own two feet, Merry is determined to make a difference in the lives of the broken and battered soldiers around her. She yearns for independence, her own identity, and to leave her broken heart behind in the United States. But her broken heart—and the man she unable to stop loving—follows her to the battlefield. Admist death and destruction, Merry finds God and love are present even in the most dire of circumstances. Goyer deftly wields historical facts into her fiction, which alone is enough of a reason for her books to stand out amongst the many World War II novels. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas within the previous statement is unique for a few reasons: Goyer set the story in the Netherland, rather than England or France, the typical setting choices for World War II stories; her protagonist and antagonist are not easily discernable within historical knowledge; and unlike the other two stories within this novella, Goyer’s story takes place on the battlefields of World War II. I loved Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas because its setting was exactly where I wanted to be when reading a World War II story—the battlefields of Europe. All of the fears and drama experienced by the Greatest Generation came alive in Goyer’s story.
Where Treetops Glisten is the first novella I have read of my own choosing, and overall I would choose to read another if I favored the authors or was drawn in by back cover copy. However, I did not consider differences between novels and novellas until I began reading Where Treetops Glisten, so the shorter lengths in which the authors have to work their plots sharply came across to me. Frequently when reading this novella I was frustrated by what seemed to be a lack of substance or depth to the characters. However, text length is not determined by an author’s choice, so I may just have to compare other novellas to Where Treetops Glisten to see if novella-type characterization varies from that of characters in novels. As mentioned above, I love Sarah Sundin’s novels and have multiples already of Tricia Goyer’s and Cara Putnam’s—no doubt, they will all be wonderful.
An alumna of the University of Delaware’s English department, Marisa holds a Master’s degree in professional writing from New England College. Her dream job is to work as an editor for a publishing company. A voracious reader of all types of literature, her favorite genres include the classics, contemporary and historical fiction, Christian fiction, and women’s “chick-lit”.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.