By: Mary Alice Monroe
A Lowcountry Novel #5
Publication Date: 10/25/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars
A wounded warrior and his younger brother discover the true meaning of Christmas in this timeless story of family bonds.
A poignant continuation of the Lowcountry Summer series.
As far as ten-year-old Miller McClellan is concerned, it’s the worst Christmas ever. His father’s shrimp boat is docked, his mother is working two jobs, and with finances strained, Miller is told they can’t afford the dog he desperately wants. “Your brother’s return from war is our family’s gift,” his parents tell him. But when Taylor returns with PTSD, family strains darken the holidays.
Then Taylor’s service dog arrives—a large black Labrador/Great Dane named Thor. His brother even got the dog! When Miller goes out on Christmas Eve with his father’s axe, determined to get his family the tree they can't afford, he takes the dog for company—but accidentally winds up lost in the wild forest. The splintered family must come together to rediscover their strengths, family bond, and the true meaning of Christmas.
A special thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Southern master storyteller Mary Alice Monroe returns following A LowCountry Wedding with A LOW COUNTRY CHRISTMAS featuring Taylor McClellan, a character from previous books. A wounded warrior revisits the past, a broken man, and his journey to the present and future.
A heartwarming holiday tale of family and the true meaning of Christmas-scattered with some humor and quotes from Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol. Past, Present, Future.
"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"-Scrooge, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.
A life-changing story of love and hope featuring a beloved family from the LowCountry. Memories from the past. Overcoming obstacles to look deeper than the glitter of the season to discover the true meaning of Christmas. A time for families together to share stories, gifts, laughter, and love.
Whether you’re meeting the Muir family for the first time, or finding them all over again. A LowCountry Christmas will stay in your heart throughout the holiday season- bringing together a family in the aftermath of a loss, and in the midst of an unfolding story of hope, with the help of one very special dog.
If you have read Mary Alice Monroe, you are aware, even though her Coastal South Carolina stories may be fiction; their impact, is real. She writes richly textured books and stories that delve into the complexities of interpersonal relationships and the parallels between the land and life. Her life-changing work and environmental fiction are an inspiration to readers, worldwide.
Readers met Taylor in the LowCountry Trilogy, a wounded warrior, suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). With a little help from his service dog, providing support and increased means of coping with such symptoms as hypervigilance, fear, nightmares, flight-or-fight response, and impaired memory.
Set in 2015, it is Christmas Eve, Taylor is returning home to Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. As a Marine, he has seen his share of battles. He recalls his previous feelings at the approaching Christmas holidays. In the first five years since he had returned from Afghanistan, he barely acknowledged the holidays. There are two reasons presently,for joy in his heart – his wife and daughter. Harper and Marietta. Only three months old.
“The treasured memories captured moments from times long gone—envelope us in that matchless spirit of Christmas one season after the other, year after year, until we ourselves fade and become part of the memories.”
Thor is Taylor’s service dog, attuned to his every mood. Even when he is resting, he is monitoring his breathing and his body language. He senses his anxiety, the PTSD, and knows all the danger signals and how to deflect before his slips into the abyss. Thor is not a dog to be ignored. Part-great Dane and part-Labrador, he’s a whopping 120 pounds of devotion.
As always, Mary Alice Monroe links a connection with animals, as in all her books, with extraordinary powers. An inspiration for the book, a bond, a story of one serviceman’s return from war with PTSD, and his inspiring journey back to his home and himself through the help of his steadfast service dog.
Looking back, it was a Christmas tree that changed everything.One pivotal Christmas five years earlier.
Washington, DC 2010. Taylor was going home for Christmas, the son of a shrimper. A graduate of Citadel in Charleston, the first man to graduate from college in his family. The bombs had shattered his bones and burned his body and soul. He brain was not right. The scars in his mind were the wounds that cut the deepest. He did not want to leave the hospital. It is where he felt safe. Surrounded by other servicemen.
Where do you go but home when there is no place else to go? He felt as if he were heading for a fall. Home for Christmas.
In the small fishing town of McClellanville, outside of Charleston—2010. Ten-year-old Miller McDaniel McClellan is not excited about Christmas. His dad is captain of a shrimp boat and times are tough.
The son of a long line of fisherman. His dad is a hard worker, smart and good with his hands. His mom cleans houses. They have little money. He only wants a dog – one particular puppy. Is there hope? He had singled out a golden puppy. His name was Sandy Claws. He likes to dig. They cost $300 each. He only has seventy-five dollars saved. He loves this puppy. Since his dad put the boat to dock, money was tight. Of course, his dad thinks a dog cost too much to upkeep. No dog for Christmas.
Instead, his mom is excited about his older brother coming home for Christmas. This was his Christmas present? No Xbox, no Playstation, and worst of all, no Sandy. Bah, humbug!
We hear from Jenny, Taylor, and Miller. Jenny, the mom who wants to create a home, rich with traditions, values, and morals that would instill confidence in her children. A happy time meant for laughter, sentimental gifts, and love. After all, Taylor was coming home. They had so much to be thankful for. She wanted to make both her son's dreams come true. Miller’s heart was broken.
Her older son was home safe in her arms. God had answered prayers. But something was different about him. Withdrawal. He had not really completely come home.
Taylor knew he was not the same man. He had a hard time touching people, hugging – damaged goods. He had to find the strength and courage to find his way back through the black mist. Thor gave him hope.
Miller is upset his brother has a dog (service dog), and he doesn’t. Taylor is the big war hero.
“Ghost of the Future!” he exclaimed. “I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company and do it with a thankful heart.” --Scrooge, A Christmas Carol.
With some special Christmas quotes from Charles Dickens, we visit the past, present, and future—to keep Christmas alive in our hearts all year long.
Jenny was in the middle. All she wanted was a normal happy home, not Team Scrooge. Christmas was only a week away. Miller disappears with his brother’s service dog, Thor. Everyone is worried. It is Christmas Eve and he has taken his dad’s axe and the wagon. He sets out to get a Christmas tree, since they cannot afford to buy one, and gets lost in the forest.
They are frantic, and it is getting cold. They are receiving snow, the first time since 1989, after Hurricane Hugo. A heartfelt reunion.
"I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!”—Scrooge, A Christmas Carol.
Flash forward, to the Epilogue, Christmas 2015, Sea Breeze, Sullivan’s Island, SC, where memories come together. We catch up with the historic Harper house, where they married and had their first child. Miller now fifteen, where the family gathers around the tree, the unspoken symbol of that important Christmas when they had dug deep and fought for one another—for their survival.
For their family, their happiness, while discovering the true meaning of Christmas. They each had the chance to redeem themselves, no matter how much of a Scrooge they may have been- they are not alone.
Fans will love catching up with Mamaw, Girard, and the rest of the Muir family—Blake and Carson, Dora and Devlin, Nate, Atticus and Vivian and some special holiday recipes from the queen of Southern cooking, Nathalie Dupree, bestselling author with more than three hundred TV appearances for the Food Network, PBS, and the Learning Channel. Also included in Mastering the Art of Southern Cooking.
If you are looking for a special Christmas story to warm your heart and soul, surrounding by the beauty of the LowCountry; Mary Alice Monroe, with her own signature style, delivers a Hallmark Christmas filled with humor, joy, and love, rediscovering the true bonds of family and the special meaning of Christmas.
Especially, during this time with the aftermath and destruction of the most recent Hurricane Matthew, and the shrimpers in the area.
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About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe found her true calling in environmental fiction when she moved to coastal South Carolina. Already a successful author, she was captivated by the beauty and fragility of her new home. Her experiences living in the midst of a habitat that was quickly changing gave her a strong and important focus for her novels.
Mary Alice Monroe writes richly textured books that delve into the complexities of interpersonal relationships and the parallels between the land and life. Monroe’s novels are published worldwide. With the same heart of conservation, Monroe has written two children’s picture books as well.
Her novels have achieved many lists, including the New York Times, USA Today and SIBA. She has received numerous awards, including several Readers’ Choice Awards; the 2014 SC Book Festival Award for Excellence in Writing; the 2015 SW Florida Book Festival Distinguished Author Award; RT Lifetime Achievement Award; and the 2008 South Carolina Center for the Book Award for Writing.
Monroe was also featured at the National Festival of the Book. In 2011, her novel The Butterfly’s Daughter won the International Book Award for Green Fiction. It was also selected as a finalist for the 2012 Book of the Year by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA).
Monroe’s novel The Beach House will be adapted into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie, starring three-time Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell and premiering exclusively on the network in 2016.
Monroe lives with her family on a barrier island outside Charleston, South Carolina. She is an active conservationist and serves on the Board of the South Carolina Aquarium, The Leatherback Trust, and Charleston Literacy Volunteers. She is a frequent speaker at book festivals, conferences, and private events. Monroe is also a frequent contributor to magazines and blogs. Read More