Joan Shaddox Isom,
Offerings in the Snow:
A Christmas Story

(Foxmoor, 2005)

It takes a minor miracle to add a story to the small pool of Christmas classics, to create something sincere but not saccharine, that taps into the mystery and magic of the season without explaining it into dust, that allows for color without glitz and isn't a clear counterfeit of the established holiday canon. It takes skill and heart and a bit of magic, and Joan Shaddox Isom has just the right measure of all these things for her Offerings in the Snow: A Christmas Story.

Told as a grandfather's memory of his childhood and the life of his family in Arkansas in 1936, Offerings in the Snow is in some ways a story with no magic at all. The Great Depression makes the spirit of Christmas hard to find, but Robby's family has another, more immediate ghost haunting its Christmas season: the highway by their yard, a hungry modern convenience that's already claimed the life of a neighbor's daughter and their own family dog. Against these grim realities, Robby's innocent stories and love of make believe seem a poor contribution. But it soon becomes clear he's the only one who has a chance to bring Christmas to his family after all -- if he can keep his feet on the ground for two days in a row.

That part of the tale is prosaic enough, with no more magic than might be found between any human relationships. But something more moves into the family's life through Robby's stories and his sister Cubby's faith, and it's in coaxing out this bit of extra magic that Isom shines. The small miracle of this Christmas never strains belief, and will leave some wondering, as Cubby's parents do, if there is any miracle at all. But in the season and with the right spirit it's clear the magic is there, even if it's something as small as a perfectly told story.

by Sarah Meador
16 December 2006

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