Can This Be Christmas?

Can This Be Christmas? by Debbie Macomber is the second, and shorter, of two stories found in this collection. I had read The Perfect Christmas in January of this year. This story was originally written in 1998, thus, as an earlier novel, didn’t seem as repetitious as her more recent works. Perhaps Macomber still had an imagination full of fresh ideas when she wrote this.

In this short novel we follow the stories of four people or couples, all of whom are stranded in a New Hampshire train station en route from Bangor, Maine to Boston on Christmas Eve. A snowstorm has damaged the tracks and none of the passengers are going to wake up with their families on Christmas morning.

We are introduced to a young seaman who wants to propose to his girlfriend over the holidays. A woman who is recently widowed will spend her first Christmas without her husband at the home of her daughter. A young professional go-getter always crisscrossing the nation on business trips is at risk of a marital breakdown over Christmas. The fourth story centres on a young couple who have adopted an infant girl. Each of these stories is believable, and I cared about the characters and their lives back home and where they were headed.

Macomber provided the required feel-good quotient when the passengers, left alone in the train station, start empyting their luggage to share food with each other, even giving the children some of the presents intended for their own families to ensure they didn’t wake up on Christmas morning with nothing to open. When the town heard about the stranded train, total strangers stopped by the station to make the passengers comfortable by bringing bedding and blankets and plenty of hot food. The stationmaster even brought a pathetic little Christmas tree, and it was straight out of Charlie Brown in how everyone managed to find something to decorate it.

Christmas really did occupy a prominent role in this novel, whereas in some of Macomber’s more recent works Christmas seemed more of an afterthought. There are only happy endings in this novel, as the seaman’s marriage proposal is accepted and the yuppie rat-racer and his wife vow to devote more of themselves to their marriage. Come early Christmas morning the tracks are repaired and the passengers are on their way.

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