A family-friendly romance bedecked with faith, traditional values and Tin Pan Alley-inspired songs.
As Hauser explains in the book’s introduction, Christmas Lists started life as a screenplay with music, a melodrama in the strictest sense, telling the story of single parents Johnny and Carlota, whose “meet cute” first encounter is a fender-bender at the Nashville elementary school attended by their precocious offspring. Though the original script was never produced, Hauser’s novella based on that earlier draft retains its scenic structure, intermittent musical interludes and cinematic passages in the form of interior monologues that speed the story along while allowing the characters to ruminate on their burgeoning romance. Johnny is a gifted musician looking for a break, playing in bands and caring for his daughter; Carlota is pursuing a grad degree in poetry at Belmont University while trying to reign in the extravagant behavior of her son. Though it’s certainly not love at first sight of the fireworks and keening violins variety for Johnny and Carlota, their affair progresses steadily via a series of playdates (ostensibly for the kids) involving picnics and checkers at Centennial Park. After a blended family Thanksgiving dinner at Carlota’s parent’s house, and more musical wooing, the couple decides to combine forces for a life of tuneful happily-ever-afterness. Old-fashioned sweetness and light are the order of the day, for the most part, despite some gestures toward modernity (single parenthood, race relations, etc). And while Hauser’s characters, regardless of age, mostly speak in a uniform voice, what they have to say is timeless and generally charming. Only Carlota’s annoying habit of speaking in forced verse (she’s a poet) breaks the largely untroubled surface.
Designed to tug gently at the strings of certain nostalgic hearts, Christmas Lists would make an excellent stocking stuffer for those who long for the days of Hallmark Hall of Fame TV specials, Rodgers & Hammerstein hits and other ghosts of seasons past.