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Another schmaltzy holiday tearjerker from Van Liere (The Christmas Blessing, 2003, etc.) brings children back into the life of a hardened social worker whose teenaged son died in a car accident.

The author spares no narrative ploy in pulling her readers’ heartstrings. Days before Christmas, in the falling snow, as Mel Torme sings “The Christmas Song,” 43-year-old Patricia Addison is shuttling yet another unwanted child to foster parents, all the while resenting the holiday hoopla. The death of 18-year-old Sean four years earlier has placed a splinter of ice between Patricia and husband Mark, an airline pilot who has his bags packed to leave her. The product of a family broken apart when her own father vanished from the house, she has no intention of stopping him. Patricia’s current cases involve two-year-old Mia, who needs a home because her mother is in rehab; and five-year-old Emily, whose mother perishes in a car accident. When Emily’s current caretakers have to attend to an emergency over Christmas, Patricia steps in and brings the girl to her own home, against all the rules of social work. Still, Mark warms to her instantly, Patricia’s co-worker Roy, a kind of “jolly black Santa,” appears with a tree for the house, and soon there seem to be many good reasons to keep the child. Mia, meanwhile, needs hospitalization for a flawed heart. Who happens to be Mia’s surgeon? The doctor who tried to save Sean four years before. Moreover, Sean left a present for his mother, along with a heartfelt note, which Dr. Nathan Andrews only just now recalls pocketing. No problem: He’ll slip it to the happily reconciled parents as a secret Santa gift. Even old Norma Holt, who has been decorating the town tree since before anyone can remember, is laid up this year with pneumonia.

Boo-hoos on every page.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 2005
ISBN: 0-312-33450-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2005