Mrs. Miracle and the christmas train
This is not one book. Mrs. Miracle was written by Debbie Macomber in 1996. The christmas train (This is the way the title appears on the book.) was written by David Baldacci in 2002. I am reviewing both books together because I read them simultaneously. Mrs. Miracle was the January selection for the women’s book club Daphne and I try to attend. I was trying to read it in time for book club, but I didn’t finish it in time, and I didn’t get to the book club. (Darn.) Daphne spotted David Baldacci’s book when we were volunteering at the library and thought I might like it. And I did.
In Debbie Macomber’s book we meet a widower named Seth Webster and his two wild ones, Judd and Jason. The love of his life was killed in a car crash 4 years ago and he is still grieving. The 6 year old twins are more than a handful and he can’t keep a live- in housekeeper/au pair for more than a couple of weeks. As the last one walks out after telling him that his children are wild animals, he’s in despair as to what to do.
Then we meet Reba. (That name bugs the heck out of me. Sorry to any Rebas that are reading right now.) She is soured on love because her sister and her fiancé were inflagrante delecto the night before her wedding. Four years now and she still carries the hatred to the extreme. She refuses to attend Christmas dinner with her parents because her sister will be there. This would constitute a serious transgression and be hard to forgive honestly. I just was tired of hearing it over and over.
Along comes Mrs. Merkle, a delightful Mrs. Claus type woman, who happens to arrive on Seth’s doorstep as the new live-in housekeeper. This woman comes from the Agency and is a God send. She cooks amazingly, the children fall in love with her instantly and become 2 little angels, and the house has never been cleaner. The children can’t say her name so they call her Mrs. Miracle. Mrs. Miracle is best part of the book. Her pearls of wisdom begin each chapter and they are good.
Mrs. Miracle has a plan. You’ve probably figured it out. Lonesome widower needs angry travel agent. Two boys need a mother. Christmas pageant needs a director and busybody church woman who plays piano takes a fall on the ice and can’t play for the pageant. Lonely widower hasn’t touched the piano since his wife’s death. Put this together and you get a rather boring, trite outcome. The one part of the book that did surprise me was when Seth and Reba, both churchgoers, were hot and heavy, necking and petting. I just didn’t expect that.
Now the christmas train was a delightful read. Tom Langdon, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, has covered some of the toughest assignments on the earth. Tired of wars, etc., and not seeing the world get any better, he heads back to the USA and writes fluff articles. The love of his life left him when he wouldn’t commit to her. As his father is dying, he asks Tom to take the train from coast to coast and finish the manuscript that Mark Twain started but never completed. Tom is a descendant of Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia Langdon. Tom takes the train, but not with the intent to finish his ancestor’s book. The manuscript can’t even be found. Rather he takes the train at Christmastime to see his current long distance girlfriend in LA. Tom is banned from air flight for a year because of searching him and his belongings after he arrived from an assignment in Italy.
You can meet some interesting characters on a train. You are wedged in with others on a train and the trip is much longer than a 3 hour air flight. Not too many places to go as you are riding the rails. Actually it sounds like an awesome adventure and I would sure like to take it. Tom meets a host of unforgettable characters. The large Agnes Joe whom he can’t figure out. She punches him in the gut and knocks him down the stairs as he tries to get to his berth for the 1st time. Regina and Roxanne, a mother-daughter pair, who are train hostesses. He is taking two trains to LA and so he meets Regina on the Washington-Chicago leg and Roxanne on the Southwest Chief to LA. He meets a couple who are getting married on the run since the boy’s folks don’t approve of the girl from West Virginia, a retired priest, a big shot lawyer, a movie mogul and his team – one of whom is his screenwriter, Eleanor, Tom’s lost love, a boa constrictor, and an avalanche.
Tom has journalism in his blood so as he is riding the train, he talks to the passengers and hears a lot of great tales. The movie mogul is working on a screen play about taking the train. Weave Eleanor into this with her and Tom constantly bickering, and his GF from LA happening to show up on the train in Chicago and proposing to him, a thief who is pilfering everyone’s valuables, a Christmas party, and you’ve got the makings for an interesting and unforgettable train ride. There is a twist at the end I didn’t see coming, but it fit the tale. This was a really fun read, and I learned a lot about trains.
My recommendation is ditch the widower and the bitter real estate agent and the necking and petting (unless you are into that sort of thing) and ride the rails for a really enjoyable read. Toot! Toot! All aboard!