It’s no secret that Karen Swan has become one of my favourite authors and I’m always treated to her latest winter release in my Christmas stocking. Christmas Under the Stars kept me occupied over the Christmas break.
I don’t know how she can improve on each story (they’re all ‘keepers’ for me) but she does! and if you haven’t read a Karen Swan novel, what are you waiting for!
Paperback: 512 pages
Publisher: Pan; Main Market Ed. edition (3 Nov. 2016)
Worlds apart. A love without limit.
In the snow-topped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Meg and Mitch are living their dream. Just weeks away from their wedding, they work and play with Tuck and Lucy, their closest and oldest friends. Meg and Lucy are as close as sisters – much to Meg’s sister’s dismay – and Tuck and Mitch have successfully turned their passion for snowboarding into a booming business.
But when a polar storm hits, tragedy strikes. Alone in the tiny mountain log cabin she shares with Mitch, Meg desperately tries to radio for help – and it comes from the most unexpected quarter, a lone voice across the airwaves that sees what she cannot.
As the snow melts and they try to live with their loss, the friendship Meg thought was forever is buckled by tensions, rivalries and devastating secrets. Nothing is as she thought and only her radio contact understands what it is to be truly alone. As they share confidences in the dark, witnessed only by the stars, Meg feels her future begin to pull away from her past and is forced to consider a strange truth – is it her friends who are the strangers? And a stranger who really knows her best?
The prologue on the day of the disaster followed by a look back at a dangerous run that Tuck and Mitch took is nail biting and makes it clear just how isolated and ruled by the elements in Banff they are. During the time leading up to Meg’s wedding and the disaster we get to know Lucy and Tuck and the small community. I thought I knew these people …
After the disaster, Meg stays away for 4 weeks and it such a poignant return, not least with what she sees on her first sighting of the cabin. She puts a call out on the radio, not expecting to get the response she does. This is so important for the story but I can’t say much (no spoilers!) except to say it is unique. And very creative! You won’t want to miss this. I was fascinated.
Yes, there is romance (don’t you just hate having to pigeonhole genres) but Christmas under the Stars for me was more about Meg finding her way through life, strengthening her relationship with sister Ronnie in Toronto and of course the secrets that twist so much of the story around.
I made judgements and was so sure I knew what was happening but I couldn’t have been further from the truth! I did guess one thing (the clues were there) but the other totally floored me. I really had no idea. It made me re-evaluate and look at things differently. Such a tense scene with the key players. Talking of scenes, the film festival where we saw the movie made by Tuck, tears were pouring down my face. I lived life with these characters (Dolores and Barbara are fabulous too). I became a part of their community. I felt the highs and of course the lows. No greater recommendation than that is there!
As always, the settings come alive (so easy to visualise). Isolated in the cabin, in the village or at the hotel, visiting Toronto – different settings and all feel very real. Flawed characters that hook into your heart and reflect the reality of life. A real crisis (the recent Italian avalanche took me right back to this story). It’s no surprise I felt a part of everything and that this became my world every evening!
Don’t let “Christmas” in the title put you off (the story starts in February). You’ll be entertained and experience a host of emotions. Highly recommended.
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Christmas under the Stars is ticking the box on my reading challenge “a book set in a country that is not your birth country.”