Joy Candellaro, a childless high school librarian in Bakersfield, California, finds her life shattered one day when she walks into her bedroom and finds her husband in bed with her sister. It’s not just her husband’s infidelity that this act signifies – their marriage is already in trouble. It shatters the relationship that Joy has with her sister. Readers of Hannah’s earlier books (particularly Between Sisters) would realize that these familial relationships are the underpinnings of this novelist’s meticulously scripted stories.
While Joy muddles through her life in the months after learning of her husband’s affair, the upcoming Christmas vacation (and the loneliness that this holiday signals for her) causes her to seek a more adventurous path. She buys a ticket on a charter flight to a Canadian town. The flight crashes in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, and Joy crawls to safety to a small town. There she meets a young boy named Bobby and his father, Daniel. Bobby recently lost his mother in a car accident, and Daniel finds it hard to comfort his son. Joy develops a deep affection for Bobby and a crush on the strapping and handsome (albeit taciturn) Daniel. Her idyllic sojourn in the small town causes her to reflect on her life and relationship with her sister.
Hannah draws the reader into the plot by painting vivid and poignant word pictures of a lonely woman’s quest for personal happiness in light of betrayal by her husband and her sister. Just when the reader realizes that Joy’s happiness lies with Bobby and Daniel, Hannah provides an O. Henry-style twist that brings to center stage the powers of sisterly love, guilt, responsibility and the entire gamut of feelings that family members feel for each other.
Hannah draws upon the knowledge of love and responsibility that she has used to great effect in her earlier novels. To this, in the spirit of the Christmas holidays, she adds a liberal dose of fairy-tale events. What results is an emotional tale that continually tugs at our heartstrings. Hannah’s legions of fans will not be disappointed in her latest effort.