A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS Shows Mary Alice Monroe's Amazing Grace

Book Review - Jackie K Cooper

Mary Alice Monroe writes from a place of love. She creates stories about people she loves, places she loves and creatures she loves. Every story she writes has a feeling of authenticity about it because it comes from her knowledge and her grace. This is especially true in her recent LOWCOUNTRY series where she created characters of warmth and heart. To add more literary magic she then placed them in her beloved lowcountry of South Carolina.

Her latest novel, A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS, takes one of the characters from that series and spins off a story about about a Christmas in McClellanville, South Carolina. The story is primarily about a ten year old boy named Miller McClellan, but it also includes a side story about his older brother Taylor. Taylor is a war veteran who returns home to McClellanville after having been wounded in a bombing in Afghanistan. His body has begun to heal but his mind has not. He is suffering from PTSD and does not know how to fix it.

Miller is just happy his brother is coming home after being in the hospital and away from his family for so long after his injury. Taylor returns not knowing his family has fallen on hard times. His father, the Captain as he is called, has lost the family shrimp boat and has been hiring himself out to other shrimpers. His mother Jenny is now cleaning the homes of people who live in and around the McClellanville area. Christmas will soon arrive and the family can not even afford to buy Miller a puppy, the gift he wants most of all.

Into this situation arrives Taylor, a man who feels at times he is losing his mind. The family is at a loss as to how Taylor should be treated. It seems every action on their part brings out a negative reaction on Taylor's part. They have only the best intentions but it seems only a Christmas miracle can save the McClellan family.

Monroe lays out this story with aching sincerity and readers are immediately drawn to the plight of each of the four characters. It takes only a few sentences for Monroe to enmesh everyone into this story and capture them emotionally. Most touching of all is Miller's story as he tries so hard to fix everything so the family can be the way it was by Christmastime.

In this story there is also an acute perception of the trauma awaiting returning veterans. People like Taylor have seen the true horrors of war and now have to try to adjust to regular living. It is a transformation fraught with peril and Monroe goes through the various steps and stages with much insight.

There are those who would say the glow surrounding the stories of Mary Alice Monroe are caused by her skills as a writer, and in some ways that is correct. Still the one element that makes her such a riveting storyteller is her grace. She loves her characters and gives each one dignity, no matter how flawed and confused they might be. This draws the reader to her stories and makes each one an amazing adventure. This is definitely the case with A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS.

A LOWCOUNTRY CHRISTMAS is published by Gallery Books It contains 384 pages and sells for $19.99.

Jackie K Cooper