As many of you know I am a huge fan of Mary Alice Monroe. Her environmental novels that mostly take place in the south are filled with important messages and wonderful characters I have fallen in love with. None more than the people in the Lowcountry series. Just when I thought she’d finished the series along comes this masterful and poignant story of Christmas in the Lowcountry complete with all the amazing characters I have come to love including our beloved Mamaw.
This time Mary Alice Monroe brings us the back story of Taylor McClellan and his family. Taylor married Harper in the last book in the series; A LOWCOUNTRY WEDDING. And they have a baby girl named after Mamaw, Marietta. Taylor survived the war in Afghanistan where he served as a Marine. But his survival was not without issues. I had heard of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but didn’t know much about it. Well Taylor has this and he also has a service dog named Thor who is part black lab and part Great Dane. Now my understanding of how service dogs are able to aid sufferers of PTSD is more substantial. Mary Alice has done her research.
This story begins with us meeting the rest of Taylor’s family, back a few years ago. His ten-year-old brother Miller is sulking because his mom and dad have told him he can’t have the puppy he so longs for. But he’s already named the puppy Sandy and they have built a relationship. The puppy is from a litter that belongs to his best friend. They are selling the pups for hundreds of dollars, and, sadly, Miller’s parents just don’t have any extra money this year. His mom tells him that their gift is Taylor coming home safely from the war. Even though Miller understand this he just can’t get past his puppy. His mom is already working two jobs and his dad recently docked his shrimp boat for lack of sales. After all, this is the modern depression.
So, what is the meaning of Christmas? This novel goes on to show Christmas past, present, and future. Just like A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Parts of the famous story are strewn carefully throughout the book. It’s smart. And meaningful.
Then Taylor arrives. And then his service dog Thor arrives. Oh boy. You can see where this is going. It’s like a tease; a dog in the house but it’s not his…
On Christmas Eve Miller decides to go out on his own with an axe to find a tree for his family who can’t afford to buy one. Everything changes. And the true meaning of Christmas shows up.
So many families have been struggling financially the past several years. The stress it puts on parents and the worry passed on to the kids can be heartbreaking. Mary Alice has taken on this as well as what it’s like for a soldier to come home broken from being wounded in service to his country. She’s done her research and worked with experts who train service dogs. Plus, her own son served this country in the Marines. My hate goes off to her as always. Job well done. A great book!
At the very end of this very special and inspirational little book are several scrumptious recipes that would be great for the holidays. Mary Alice’s friend Nathalie Dupree writes award-winning southern cookbooks and is featured on the Food Network. Nathalie came up with these little wonders. What a nice perk.
Mary Alice Monroe
is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels. She’s involved with several environmental groups and is on the board of the South Carolina Aquarium, the Leatherneck Trust, and Charleston Volunteers for Literacy. Her volunteer work with these and other groups provided the inspiration for her novels, The Beach House Trilogy.