Home and Away: A World War II Christmas Story by Dean Hughes
Shadow Mountain, 2015. Hardcover, 169 pages.
Tender and heartfelt, this novel is perfect for the holiday season. It opens with Thanksgiving preparations set the backdrop of Dennis Hayes’ older brother, Glen, being off fighting in World War II Europe. Though worry for Glen permeates the house, Dennis feels the need to make the Christmas season bright. He opts to work extra hours at his after school job during the holidays to make money to buy his mother a new dress for Christmas and presents for his sisters and father. Throughout this, Dennis supports his mother while his father does his own thing. Meanwhile, across the ocean, Glen is a member of the 101st airborne and trapped during the German offensive at the Battle of the Bulge. Throughout the horrors of war, a sprig of dried lavender reminds Glen of his mother and the perfume she wears. Will the season be “merry and bright?”
While I almost dismissed this novel after the first chapter for being too childish, I’m glad I continued; that early perception was shattered by the second chapter. Home and Away showed the worry of being on the homefront during war, while adding the complicated layers of family struggles at home. It is also a story of finding one’s own way in life and learning to accept others as they are. While Dennis was only 16, he is the strong one in his family who is there to help all. An adult, really, in many ways. By the novel’s end, no reader can deny the heart touching moments and few could avoid shedding a few tears.
Like many Christmas-themed books, there is a religious element to this novel. However, the sentiments can be felt by anyone, regardless of religion. After all, home, family, and worry for those absent are things to be considered by everyone.
Lastly, if you ever read the novel, seen the movie, or heard the song The Christmas Shoes and loved it, this novel is for you as it has a similar theme.’
My review is based on a library copy of this novel.
Do you have another Christmas story to recommend? Or for those non-Christians, a holiday story for your religion? After all, Hanukkah is also celebrated in December, as is Kwanzaa. Do you think you may read this novel?
P.S. One more delightful historical fiction holiday titles was released this year and that review will follow in a couple weeks. Wait and see what it is.