Reviewer: Jessica Sichel
“Christmas” is a collection of four short stories written by Marcia Lee Laycock. “Missing Christmas,” “No Matter How Far,” “An Earthly Treasure,” and “An Unexpected Glory” are rather different from each other and each has a different take on the miracle and wonder of Christmas. Yet, all of the stories share the common theme of God as provider, whether the needs of the characters are physical, emotional, or financial.
In the first story, “Missing Christmas,” self-centeredness overwhelms the main character. Due to an unfortunate event, she and her husband are unable to attend Christmas with distant family as previous planned, leaving the unnamed narrator feeling very sorry for herself. However, towards the end of the story she is shown an unexpected kindness and says, “The sight…filled my soul with a light that made me forget about myself.” The wonder of Christmas wins over the narrator.
Next, Laycock tells the story of a man in desperate straits who almost gives in to the physical stress his body undertakes in, “No Matter How Far.” Help comes in various forms and in the end, the sequence of events, along with his background, propels him towards finding answers to certain questions.
The third story, “An Earthly Treasure,” is a little out there – literally! It is a science fiction tale which takes place in space and shows how, even when we are physically and mentally very far from where Jesus wrought miracles, God works anyway, crossing immeasurable boundaries.
The fourth story – and my favorite – is “An Unexpected Glory,” a classic tale of overcoming the desire for Christmas to be perfect. The mishaps which befall the characters are all too well known by many. When things seem to be falling apart all around, God can and does work all things for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Laycock has a talent for storytelling and shows her versatility in the variety of genres, settings, and characters within this little collection. One story seems to have a more existential feel, while another is heart-warming, and a third is science fiction. When picking up a compilation of Christmas stories, one might expect a more traditional, consistent set of tales. Instead, Laycock modernizes Christmas by setting her stories in what seem to be present – and in one case, is actually future – scenarios. Furthermore, the characters themselves are rather approachable, feeling and thinking things that a reader may very well think for him or herself. Laycock does a good job making connections between the reader and her characters.
There are a few flaws in the tales, such as in the fourth story when a baby is given medication for an unknown ailment instead of being taken to a doctor for evaluation. The medication causes the child to sleep, which is not necessarily a sign of healing. This incident leaves a disturbing feeling in the mind. Also, some of Laycock’s characters could be made a little less flat, with more information or background being given about them. These are, however, short stories, so some brevity in such areas is to be expected.
Overall, for a different take on the traditional fireside short story, “Christmas” would be a good choice. Happy reading!
Reviewer: Cierra Loften
Everyone who knows me knows I love everything about the holiday season. The festivities, the decorations, the food, and of course, the real reason for the season: celebrating the birth of Christ. So, when I saw the title of Laycock's collection of 4 short stories, I decided to pick it up. The cover gets right down to the point of what the stories are about (the birth of Jesus) and the author bio on the back is also simple and lovely to look at. The cover earns an 8 from me. There were four separate stories, with their own respective characters, though, overall, I didn't really connect with the characters in any of the stories. I found them a tad boring, though they weren't awful by any means. I'll offer a 6 for the characters. Each story's plot was fairly simple and fairly interesting, though none of them really struck my interest for very long. Plot earns an 8 from me. Style wise, I can tell Laycock has been writing for quite a while. Her ideas flow very well and she does a wonderful job of closing each story. Style earns an 8. Unfortunately, when it comes to addictiveness, I really had a difficult time finishing these stories. As mentioned above, I didn't find them that intriguing and that made it hard for me to want to keep reading at times. Addictivenes earns a 4. Ending on a positive note, the stories were inspirational and did a beautiful job of capturing the peaceful, loving essence of Christmastime. Content earns a 10. Overall, Christmas earns a 4 star rating from me.