(Pour nos chers lecteurs francophones, je vous réfère au joli article de Tam-Tam qui m’a donné envie de lire ce livre.)
Here we are again, Wednesday and the weekend seems so far away…
What helps YOU cope during long winter weeks? Last time, I wrote about Escapism (it was in French, but here is a good definition in English), its risks and virtues, and I told you how much I love getting lost in a good book!
Well today has come the time for me to admit to one of my « Pêchés mignons » (guilty pleasures): romance novels. I used to feel nothing but scorn for this kind of literature (does it even count as literature?) and would not have been caught dead reading one of these books. Then Princesse Chi-Chi decided it could not go on any longer and took it upon herself to educate me. You see, Chi-Chi (along with co-blogger Tam-Tam) is a sort of romantic literature high priestess and I was soon to be initiated to the world of good romance. The key word there being good – yes, romance is literature and it can be good. Oh-so-good! Today’s post is not meant to be a manifesto on romance novels, so to keep it short: well written romance has wit, humour, style, sometimes suspense, fangs, thrill, sci-fi, history, always love, and most of all a 100% dependable feel-good factor (if it doesn’t end well, it is not good romance – and I don’t mean cheesy, yuk!).
You’ve guessed it, this was the kind of books an irredeemable escapist like me had been waiting for all her life. So when Monday blues threatens and I need a quick fix of « warm-and-fuzzy », I visit the Princesses’ library to find inspiration – and they strike every time with surreal accuracy (how I wish the Princesses’ blog was also in English!).
This week’s Monday post from Tam-Tam was about « Twelve Days » by Teresa Hill. Yes it is the Twelve Days of Christmas, and yes I know it’s not Christmas at all, but yes it’s such a nice story you can read it any time of year.
Unable to have their own children, and after unsuccessful attempts at adoption, Rachel and Sam McRae register as foster parents and welcome young Will into their life and into their hearts (what do you mean it’s a cheesy phrase?).
We pick up their story a few years later, about a month after Will is taken away from them to live with his biological mother again. Devastated, Rachel has been slowly sinking into depression, and her life with Sam into a deep, unforgiving silence. Rachel and Sam have been married for 12 years and despite their deep love for each other, life’s hardships seem to have finally gotten the better of their relationship.
On this first evening of a 12 day local festival leading up to Christmas, Miriam, Rachel’s aunt and a social worker, shows up on her doorstep with 3 siblings in want of shelter for the holidays. Emma (11), Zach (5) and baby Grace (1) have been abandoned in a motel by their mother and Rachel and Sam are their only hope to spend the holidays in a safe place without being separated. Rachel’s first reaction is anger, at what she feels is a cruel joke from her aunt, putting her once more in a situation that will most likely hurt her, when she is still mourning the loss of Will (and more?). How could she, really? Still, the children’s needs come first and Rachel agrees to take them on (without checking with Sam) but only for the holidays. As she goes to tell Sam, she overhears a conversation and discovers he plans on leaving her just after Christmas.
In spite of this shock and of the painful memories the kids trigger, Rachel decides it’s time to pick up her life and to give the children the best Christmas of their lives, in the long tradition of her own big and loving family. Sam, clearly not thrilled by a situation he knows will hurt them more, plays along, and suddenly the big and silent family house is filled with the sound of children.
This is not a typical romance, which would start with the heroes meeting and falling in love, not with a 12 year marriage and 3 children, but the story still remains centered on Sam and Rachel’s relationship. It does not suddenly become perfect again, and I think that is one of my favourite aspects of this novel. Rachel and Sam have a lot of work to do, a lot of silence(s) to overcome, years of unspoken guilt and hurt to express and grief to process. They have to go through these Twelve Days with the uncertainty of when the children’s mother will be found, of knowing if Sam will really leave her (Rachel hasn’t told him she knows), of figuring how he will live without Rachel (Sam is leaving her to give her a chance to be happy) and with irresistible children who need their love but might soon break their hearts.
Teresa Hill really takes just the time needed to let Rachel and Sam work out their problems like any real couple, knowing it takes more than the magic of children in a house to heal a relationship. I really enjoyed watching them slowly break the silence and the distance between them, how the children actually help the couple as much as they are helped and I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the series (there are 3 more books, one about each child). I was also touched by the way Rachel struggles to learn again what faith means, whether in God or in her marriage and by the way Sam struggles, even after 12 years, to accept the love of her wonderful family and of their community.
When I say really enjoyed it, I must be completely honest (it’s part of a 12 step program to deal with my compulsiveness): I couldn’t put it down, read it in one evening and didn’t sleep until 2:30 am… on a week night… but it was worth it!
So go for it, it’s a lovely book that’s sure to make you smile: who can say no to that?
More than halfway through the week! Yes!