By: Olivia Newport
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Publication Date: October 2017
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: September 24, 2017
Olivia Newport delivers two stories that invoke the celebration and hope of Christmas between the covers of Colors of Christmas.
"Christmas in Gold" begins with Astrid facing life’s next chapter. The home where she and her departed husband raised their two children, Alex and Ingrid, is more than she can manage alone. When Astrid fell and fractured her leg, her son Alex put his foot down. It was time to sell the house and move mom to an assisted living facility. With the demands of his job and extensive travel, he wasn’t around much and it was only a matter of time before something would go seriously wrong—or so Alex believed. And he wasn't the only one who felt this way - his sister Ingrid agreed. Besides, she had her own family and two young children to worry about without having the constant fear of something happening to her mother. When Astrid arrives at her new home, reality hits hard. Gone were the many rooms and years of character in the home she and her husband made together. Astrid’s new home had been reduced to the equivalent of a loft with a bedroom, with a kitchenette that transitioned into a small family area with little to no storage throughout. Now the holidays are around the corner and it’s the first year her home will be absent of the strapping Christmas tree adorned with the special gold ornaments—treasures that had survived Nazi Germany and many feats beyond. Astrid’s gravest concern is the whereabouts of her ornaments. In the move, the box is nowhere to be found and her fear is that they are lost forever.
"Christmas in Blue" takes the reader on a journey of loss and new beginnings. Angela is a piano teacher and while her bevy of adolescent students would much prefer the great outdoors to the confines of a piano bench and foreign keys, their respective parents continue to send their children to her for the infusion of culture. In the small town of Spruce Valley, the holidays are looming. With the passing of her dear friend, Carole, Angela is looking forward to skipping the fanfare of the holidays and jumping into the new year. However, the annual tradition of A Christmas to Remember is upon her—a painful and bittersweet reminder of her dear friend Carole’s passing. The planning committee for the event assembles in their first meeting. Chairwoman Rowena Pickwell thinks it is a brilliant idea to nominate Angela to take the lead this year. Recognizing the nomination is more of a mandate than option, Angela processes the tall order and has more than a few mental expletives before graciously accepting the appointment. Angela faces resistance, challenges and downright obstacles along the way. While past events are reminders for the people of Spruce Valley to have something to look forward to thanks to Carole; this year could be the first year it is remembered as the event nobody will ever forget.
Olivia Newport pens the realities of life experiences and how their melancholia is personified during the holidays in both stories. In "Christmas in Gold," even though Astrid’s mind is sharp, her body is not as strong as it once was. Through thoughtful dialogue, Ms. Newport addresses aging with a realistic, positive approach and does not paint her character as a victim and paint her into a corner of utter and complete dependency. Rather, she uses her savvy wordsmithing to develop a character who is strong and willing to accept the new path in her journey of life. In "Christmas in Blue," Ms. Newport continues to stay true to her pen and audience and delivers another faith-based tale. This time, she focuses on the acceptance of loss and the importance of carrying on. Both stories are not preachy diatribes of hellfire and brimstone fraught with religious pontification. To the contrary, they are two light-hearted, feel-good renditions of looking beyond the unfair moments in life and embracing the joy and gift of the present through faith. I applaud Ms. Newport for delivering two charming and warm stories.
Quill says: Colors of Christmas is a great read for that someone special on your holiday list this year.