Friday, December 12, 2008

I Found Noel. Have You?

A splendid addition to my Christmas library this year was Richard Paul Evans’ Finding Noel, a rather brief but beautifully constructed story that was published a couple of years ago. Evans seems to be making a nice career out of Christmas, following up on the success of The Christmas Box with several other popular books oriented to the holiday.

Chances are that you’ve read some of them or at least seen the movies that have been made based on Evans’ books. I’m afraid I’m a bit late coming to the party but after the very pleasant time I had reading Finding Noel, I’m sure it’s a party I’ll return to again before the Christmas season passes.

Finding Noel actually tells several stories, most of them dealing with strained, stressed and even completely severed relationships. But it's anything but a downer book. Indeed, it is a heartwarming look at how even these challenges can bring out the best in people.

And sometimes even the most difficult of problems can be solved.

Mark Smart is a young musician/janitor/college dropout struggling (and none too well) with loneliness, failure, lies and family heartaches. He is even contemplating putting an end to his troubles when into his life comes Macy Wood, a pretty waitress at the Java Hut who shows him unusual kindness and joy and, before very long, love. Macy has her own problems though. They’ve scarred her badly and left her without the one thing she most desires – her little sister, Noel.

The story of Mark and Macy falling in love is sweet but not cloy. The dialogue between them is crisp, charming and realistic. But even true love encounters obstacles and…no, I don’t want to give anything more away. You’ll just have to read Finding Noel yourself if you want to see if they work it out, if Macy finally finds healing from her horrific foster upbringing, if Mark ever makes things right with his father and, of course, if Noel, the long lost sister is ever found.

But I can tell you this much -- discovering the answers to these questions will make for a delightful and moving read.

One more note here – Evans begins each chapter (and like many of these compact-size, special-themed books, there’s an awful lot of them) with a quotation from the protagonist’s diary. They were inventive and fun, so much so that I didn’t mind at all the frequent breaks in the action.

Let me give you a few of my favorites.

* “There is no amount of compassion or common sense that can’t be extinguished by government bureaucracy.”

* “When it comes to hurting children we cannot claim ignorance. Every adult I’ve ever met has once been a child. And some have become more so.”

* “I learned something valuable today. Oftentimes the greatest hurts of our lives come from running from the smaller ones.”

* “ How foolish to believe we have any idea of what is really going on around us or that permanency is an earthly option.”

* “...Revenge is only for those still chained.”

* “…I swear you could tell that woman that her hair was on fire and she’d ask if the flames matched her blouse.”