Sometimes, the things that can change your life will cross your path in one instant-and then, in a fleeting moment, they're gone. But if you open your eyes, and watch carefully, you will believe.... Robert is a successful attorney who has everything in life-and nothing at all. Focused on professional achievement and material rewards, Robert is on the brink of losing his marriage. He has lost sight of his wife, Kate, their two daughters, and ultimately himself. Eight year old Nathan has a beloved mother, Maggie, whom he is losing to cancer.
Two couples find their lives transformed by a Christmas gift in VanLiere's debut novel, a gooey holiday parable that leaves no stone unturned in its pursuit of tear-jerking moments. Robert Layton is an ambitious lawyer who sacrifices his youthful idealism to become a partner and specialize in bankruptcy law. His ambition backfires, though, when his wife, Kate, announces that she wants a divorce from her often absent husband, throwing family life into chaos right before the holidays. Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks, another couple anticipates impending tragedy as young mechanic Robert Andrews tries to prepare his family for the coming death of his attractive wife, Maggie, from ovarian cancer. The two families' lives critically intersect when Layton goes Christmas shopping and encounters Andrews's young son, Nathan, trying to buy a pair of shoes for his mother as a going-away present. When the hard-hearted lawyer sees that the boy is short of cash, he ponies up for the purchase. The transformation that follows makes for a heartwarming story, and VanLiere writes some affecting family scenes that contrast the material poverty of the Andrewses with the spiritual poverty of the Laytons. But the story's beauty is marred by the author's nonstop holiday clich s in both assorted characters and passages of decidedly preachy prose. (Nov.) Forecast: This novel was inspired by a song, last Christmas's eponymous surprise hit by a group called NewSong. Written by the wife of the group's manager, the book will be heavily promoted this season, with NewSong embarking on a 20-city author tour. Expect brisk sales particularly in Christian markets, where the song first made its mark. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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St. Martin's Press
October 13, 2002
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Excerpt from The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
Or give our anguish scope.
Something was dead within each of us,
And what was dead was Hope.
-- Oscar Wilde
The first big snowstorm of the winter of 1985 fell on Thanksgiving. After that, another massive storm seemed to enter the area every few weeks and drop inches, or even a foot, blanketing the landscape and making the town look like a Christmas card, long before the holiday arrived.
Schools were closed more times that winter than in the previous five years combined. Nearly every week, Doris Patterson finalized the lesson plan for her second-grade class, only to have to change it entirely due to yet another snow day.
After twenty-nine years of teaching, Doris was accustomed to the unexpected. Where some saw chaos, she saw opportunity. When the principal announced an early dismissal over the PA system, Doris tried to think up a fun, new assignment for her students, to accompany the traditional spelling and math homework. Assignments like What are the flowers thinking beneath the snow? or When do birds make reservations to fly south? Though simple assignments, she'd seen them stir her students' imaginations, creating wonderful memories for her scrapbook.
In the last couple of years, Doris had considered retiring but, for whatever reason, had always felt she wasn't ready. Until now. She'd recently informed the principal that this would be her last school year. Her husband had retired four years earlier from the post office. He was anxious to hit the wide-open roads with her in a brand-new RV he'd purchased, with "Herb and Doris" airbrushed in blue and pink on the spare-tire cover. Maybe it was all the snow there had been that year, but warm winters in the Southwest had begun to sound good to her.
Doris never showed favoritism outwardly, but every year there was one child in her classroom who captured her heart. In 1985 that child was Nathan Andrews. Nathan was quiet and introspective. He had sandy hair, huge blue eyes, and a shy smile. Doris noticed that his gentle nature was lacking the spark she'd seen in his previous two years at the school. While other students interrupted her with "Um, Mrs. Patterson, Charity just sneezed on my head" or "Hey, Mrs. Patterson, Jacob just hit me with a spitball," Nathan made his way to her desk without calling attention to himself and whispered, "Excuse me, Mrs. Patterson." He'd then wait patiently until she turned to him. Compared with the boisterous natures of the twenty-five other eight-year-olds in her class, Nathan's measured, serious disposition was, almost in a sad way, beyond his years.
Some of her colleagues maintained that children from poorer homes were harder to teach, had more disciplinary problems, and were generally mouthier than those students who came from middle-to upper-class homes. Doris disagreed. She knew Nathan's family could be considered lower income. Mr. Andrews worked at a local auto-repair shop and, people said, could barely make ends meet. Yet in all her years of teaching, Nathan was one of the most polite children she'd ever met. Doris had learned that it wasn't the size or cost of a home that created kind, well-adjusted children, but the love and attention that filled that home.