Shelley Shepard Gray extends the traditional "dark and stormy night" story into a full week of blizzard conditions in her Christmas novel Grace. It's December 20th and the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast is ready to close for the holiday season. Sisters-in-law Katie and Anna are set to go do some last minute holiday shopping, while Katie's parents shut down the B & B so that everyone can just be home for the holidays, enjoying the privacy of a traditional family holiday gathering.
But then the family's Christian charity is put to a test. Out of nowhere arrive two guests who are desperate for shelter, food, and rest. One is a girl named Melody from Kentucky who is alone, nine months pregnant, and baffled about what to do to help herself and her forthcoming baby. Also arriving is a brooding, gruff-speaking older man named Levi Bender, who is secretive, suspicious, even surly.
The home begins to look like Noah's ark as the clan of relatives starts pouring in: Katie and her husband Eli and their three children; Anna and her new hubby Henry; Jonathan and his sister Winnie and her husband Samuel; Mother and Father; and, now, two unexpected houseguests. And before anyone can volunteer to leave or be asked to leave, a blizzard blankets the county, trapping everyone indoors for the next five days. (This, obviously, gives a modern day spin on the pregnant girl finding "no room in the inn.")
Katie cannot help herself from probing and questioning and prying into the lives of the two strangers. She wants to know their hidden secrets and what chain of events led them to the Brenneman home at the Christmas holiday season. We readers do, too, so this becomes a mystery story as well as a home-and-hearth tale. The characters learn much about each other, about what it means to share, love, and care openly, and how and when to be "my brother's keeper." Gifts of Christmas are not just the packages that are wrapped and placed under the tree. Even greater gifts are acts of mercy, forgiveness, kindness, understanding, and sharing.
This plot moves at a rather slow pace, but that allows the author to showcase several of the central characters and also to portray rural American life. The dialogue is sprinkled with German verbs and nouns to give an Amish feel to the setting. Readers longing for an old-fashion Christmas without blaring televisions, flashing neon lights, silly outdoor blow-up reindeer fixtures, and endless holiday advertisements, will find relief in this story. High art this isn't, but relaxing reading it is. – Dr. Dennis E. Hensley, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
It’s Christmastime at the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast, and everyone is excited about closing down for the holidays. But when two unexpected visitors appear seeking shelter, the family’s commitment to hospitality is tested. First Levi arrives, sullen and angry . . . but insisting on staying for five days. Next Melody shows up. She’s almost nine months pregnant, but won’t say a word about why she traveled all the way from Kentucky by herself. As the two strangers settle in, the Brennemans try to make the best of an uncomfortable situation, except for Katie, who and knows a thing or two about keeping secrets. She is determined to learn the truth about these two strangers . . . all while keeping her own secret safely hidden away.