“Nothing is more beautiful than family”. With this theme as its tagline, Keeping Christmas is Dan Walsh’s newest Christmas novel released by Revell. Ultimately, it is a story of heartache and depression which ultimately transform into joy and hope. Empty-nesters Stan and Judith Winters are facing their first Christmas with none of their children or grandchildren able to come home. As the 25th of December draws nearer, Judith becomes more depressed and despondent. Stan, beside himself to help his wife, is faced with a difficult decision that will fill their home with Christmas joy once again, while simultaneously letting down a friend and crushing a dream.
With this plot in place, it is easy to see the setup for a heartwarming, sweet surprise at the end of the story. A reader’s journey along the way, however, is slightly tedious, a little unbelievable, and even somewhat depressing. To begin with, several of the primary characters are rather lackluster. Judith’s emotions – self-pity, despair, hopelessness, etc. – are based on her lack of family for the holidays, and having them come home is the only way she believes she will find happiness. Giving her pain to God, and allowing Him to bring new traditions in place of the old ones, does not alleviate her despondency or even seem to cross her mind. The best moral of the story is Stan’s act of completely selfless, compassionate, and ungrudging love. Of course, this leads to an ending that is worthy of a Hallmark movie, and is almost worth the journey itself. But in reality, even the presence of family cannot replace the peace and joy that can only come from trusting in God through all of life’s disappointments. This book, well… it seems to claim the opposite.
Overall, Keeping Christmas may appeal to readers who collect holiday stories, love picture-perfect endings, and don’t mind novels without a great deal of depth or spiritual insight. For me, the fact that it was lacking in morals and contained rather unimaginative characters means that I will leave it off my read-again list of Christmas stories.
I am grateful to have received a copy of this book, free of charge, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.