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Christmas, Present    by Jacquelyn Mitchard order for
Christmas, Present
by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Melissa Parcel

Elliott Banner cannot remember whether this December 23rd is his fourteenth or fifteenth wedding anniversary. On their fifteenth anniversary, he wants to surprise his wife, Laura, with a long-desired trip to Paris. Thankfully, after presenting Laura with tickets to Cirque du Soleil, he finds out that he has another year to plan the Paris vacation.

But on the trip home that evening, Laura experiences an excruciating headache. Their car breaks down, and when they finally get to the hospital, the news is devastating. Laura has experienced a ruptured aneurysm and has only a few hours to live. Struggling to process the information and notify the rest of their family, Laura and Elliott look back on their lives together and apart. How do we survive the loss of those closest to us? What would we say and do if we had only a short time to say good-bye?

Christmas, Present is not really a book about the Christmas holiday. Although Laura and Elliott's anniversary and Laura's death occur right before Christmas, it's not a focal point of the story. At its heart, this is a story of love and loss and reflecting without regret. As a mother, I identified with Laura's desire to communicate the minutiae of her everyday life to her family in order to make the transition easier after her death. Elliott's effort to grasp and come to terms with the situation will ring true with every reader who has experienced the loss of a loved one.

Although Christmas, Present is a short novel, it packs an emotional punch. The ending is sweet and made the book a worthwhile read for me. If you are expecting a novel about the meaning and celebration of Christmas, you will be disappointed. But if you are looking for a heartfelt story about the love of a family, this is the perfect holiday read.

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