First Line: I love Christmas.
Connie Willis, one of my favorite authors, loves Christmas and doesn't much care for Hans Christian Andersen:
"Nobody, before Andersen came along, had thought of writing such depressing Christmas stories. Even Dickens, who had killed a fair number of children in his books, didn't kill Tiny Tim. But Andersen, apparently hell-bent on ruining everyone's holidays, froze innocent children, melted loyal toys into lumps of lead, and chopped harmless fir trees who were just standing there in the forest, minding their own business, into kindling."
Willis goes on to say in her Introduction to Miracle and Other Christmas Stories that she prefers Miracle on 34th Street to It's a Wonderful Life when watching holiday films (so do I), and she joyfully rolls with abandon through lists of her favorite Christmas stories. What she sets out to do in this book is provide all sorts of well-written, fun holiday short stories, and she succeeds brilliantly.
For those of you who are more familiar with Willis's science fiction novels, be warned that these stories aren't exclusively in that genre. There's something for everyone. For example, "Inn" is a church choir story with a time-travel twist; "Miracle" is a delightful duel between Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life; and "Cat's Paw" is a British country house Christmas mystery.
My two favorites are "Adaptation" about a divorced bookstore employee trying to spend Christmas Eve with his daughter, and "In Coppelius's Toyshop" in which a world-class jerk gets his just desserts. And if that isn't enough, Willis includes lists of her twelve favorite Christmas stories and movies at the very end.
Normally I don't seek out holiday-themed reads. If they fall into my hands, all's well and good. I'm very glad this particular Christmas book fell into my hands this year. I love Christmas but have found myself lacking the true spirit. (I don't want to sound like Hans Christian Andersen, so I won't go into the reasons why I feel this way.) Miracle and Other Christmas Stories went a very long way in bringing some much-needed cheer into my rather bleak frame of mind. Connie Willis continues to be one of my Go-To Authors.
I'm getting into the holiday spirit and thought I'd read this thematic collection. I have to admit to a bit of trepidation, but this was actually a pretty good collection.
I'm guessing this one was Willis' favorite, as it's first, longest, and the title story, but I thought it was the worst in the book (although it's not bad). This is probably because I have never seen EITHER "Miracle on 34th Street" or "It's a Wonderful Life," and the story is really all about said movies, and the contrasts between them (in the context of a harried office worker finding the love that's right in front of her rather than the one she's been chasing after, with the help of an annoying hippie Christmas spirit.
Very non-subtle, but effective story. I cried. A church is busy getting ready for their Christmas Pageant, simultaneously, however, they are all too ready to leave needy homeless people out in the cold in the name of safety. One woman takes pity on the young couple outside - who are, of course, actually Mary & Joseph, lost on their way to Bethlehem.
In Coppelius's Toyshop. 1996
A horror story. A real jerk of a guy gets stuck in a toy shop (that strongly resembles FAO Schwartz) forever!
The Pony. 1985
Excellent, very short story. Ominous presents! Ha!
A recently divorced man is having a hard time with his ex-wife, who is seeking to separate him from his little girl at Christmas time. The management at the bookstore where he works aren't easy to deal with either, and demanding author-signings are the icing on the cake. But the spirits from Dickens' Christmas Carol may help him get through the season...
Cat's Paw. 1999
An homage to the classic Holmsian murder-mystery-at-the-manor tale, only with some twists. This manor is inhabited by a woman who's a premier researcher into primate intelligence... Starts out seeming fairly typical... but it gets pretty good!
This one's a take-off on the whole Invasion of the Body Snatchers theme. This season, people are actually seeming to get NICER around Christmas time. But they also seem to all be wearing hats... or wigs. What are they hiding? Very funny.
A liberal reverend, a black atheist and a retired English teacher all find themselves traveling down a snowy road, following a mysterious compulsion to head West, in this story of the Second Coming, paralleling the original tale of the Three Wise Men. Why should the Second Coming be full of wrath, blood and disaster? Why shouldn't it occur in the form of... a carnival?
A variety of Connnie Willis short stories regarding Christmas. They cover a wide variety of moods and vary in how much they are fantasy and how much reality based. fun.
Eight Christmas stories by Connie Willis- winner of multiple Hugo and Nebula awards.