Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti
It was while reading Cynthia Ruchti's AS WATERS GONE BY, set on Madeline Island just off Bayfield, WI, that I first learned that Ruchti resided in Wisconsin. A new to me Wisconsin author? One who wrote multi-layered hopeful, yet realistic contemporary stories set in places that I adore? What more could I ask for? How about characters that spanned the generations and Christian themes? How about quality writing? Could I have possibly found an author who delivered on all these points? I quickly searched out previous titles and have followed her new releases ever since and I can confidently say that Cynthia Ruchti delivers on all counts. (Check out my review of SONGS OF SILENCE here for my perspective on that novel. )
So when I read early this summer that Ruchti was working on a Christmas novella, I had hopes that the story would rise above the sweet, but not profound quality of most holiday works. For her story RESTORING CHRISTMAS, Ruchti travels to Lake Michigan's western shore and the small town of Algoma just south of Door County and Green Bay. Once a hardy fishing village (I believe there are still some commercial fishermen who leave from this area and there are definitely fishing charters for the sports fishermen), Algoma today is a bit of a quiet tourist area. As the book opens, Alexis Blake, a struggling Chicago interior designer, has just arrived in town for what may be the job that will thrust her into national recognition and her own Heart and Home television show (think HGTV channel crossed with Hallmark). Her task is to remodel a stone country home, decorate it for the holidays, and end the filming with a "homespun"get together with the owner and her family. Immediately, two huge obstacles stand in the young designer's way. First, the videographer she has hired is a no-show and Alexis is not sure if George Langley's son Gabe is an able replacement. Second is the homeowner herself, Elsie Raymond. Quiet and reclusive, Elsie never entered the contest that selected her home for a remodel. Thanks to a neighbor, she has won and now must put up with a work crew tramping across her yard and into her home. But that does not mean she has to like what is happening and she certainly does not have to be cordial.
Every aspect of this house transformation is a struggle, but with Gabe's help, Alexis learns that restoration is not just a term for house design, but can also applies to the brokenness of human life.
And we all have our own tales of brokenness. In this season when we remember the greatest healer, the one who came to restore each of us, it was a joy to read this hopeful, gentle novel. I loved that we got to experience Elsie's gruff manner and mysterious ways without a bit of explanation until the end, so that we could come to care for her despite her rough edges, just as Gabe and Alexis do. I loved that the book, like Ruchti's other writings, provide characters of many ages. While twenties and thirties will like this book, so will other ages of readers, even an oldie like me. This book would be a great stocking stuffer for the readers in your family, book club gift exchange, or a Sunday School teacher. I received a copy of this book from Worthy Publishers for review purposes.