Wednesday 11 October 2023

Guest Review: Countdown to Christmas by Jo Thomas

Chloe can't wait for Christmas . . . to be over! Her son Ruben is staying with his dad and Chloe is planning to ignore the holidays altogether. Her only festive touch is her son's advent calendar, to help count down the days till he's home again.

But a surprise call changes everything. Chloe might be the unexpected owner of some land in Canada! Surely, it's a scam. Or could it be just the escape she needs right now? Ruben's latest note in the advent calendar tells her to 'say yes!'

In a flash, Chloe's new countdown to Christmas involves a log cabin in the middle of a snowy forest, a community that's worried for its future, a gruff lumberjack who gives her butterflies and a lot of pancakes with maple syrup . . .

Review: I love it when a new book from Jo Thomas lands in my Kindle. I know that I can look forward to trip to somewhere I may not have visited and to meeting some interesting new characters. As a lover of Christmas, I’m particularly excited to read her new novel for the festive season. The title this time gives nothing away regarding the setting so I was keen to dig into the book. This story had me hooked right away, but I had no idea what an emotional ride I was going to have.

When single mum Chloe tearfully waves her teenage son Ruben off to spend the month of December in New York with his father, she never dreams that within days she too will be flying away after a surprise phone call from a stranger. What she expected to be a very different Christmas without Ruben is turning out to be beyond anything she could have imagined. Ruben has kept up the family tradition by leaving behind their homemade advent calendar, which he has filled with messages and gifts for his mother to find. That is one of the things she packs as she sets off to investigate the possibility that she might be the heir to some valuable land in a remote part of Canada. There, she finds a community fearing for the future if that parcel of land falls into the wrong hands. As she settles into a log cabin in the woods surrounded by strange sounds and creatures, she tries to work out her family connection with the area. It doesn’t take long to get to know the local people and understand their love of the world in which they live. She is particularly drawn to Bea who owns the diner where she serves very strong coffee and lots of pancakes with maple syrup, and the rugged Theo who seems to be there every time she needs anything. As time passes, Chloe realises she has a difficult decision to make.

This is a wonderful wintry tale that I can highly recommend this festive season. I did find it quite emotional as first Chloe has to leave her son at the airport and then later has to make the seemingly impossible decision about the community she has grown to love in Canada. The cleverly written story had me wondering how things were going to be resolved. I loved the characters that Jo Thomas introduced to the reader, from Chloe’s next door neighbour in London, to the people in the Canadian forest community such as Bea the heavily pregnant diner cook, Nancy the store owner, Philippe the mayor, shy teen OcĂ©ane and of course Theo, the lumberjack with the hard exterior and heart of gold. I should also mention the wildlife that Chloe meets along the way, including the elegant elk and her calf and the fierce turkey Ike. I found myself lost in the snowy landscape so well described by the author; she really brought home to me the vastness and beauty of the land. I also learned a bit about maple syrup production, the mainstay of the community. Lastly, the book ends with a selection of recipes for dishes mentioned in the text, all containing maple syrup.

To order your copy now, just click here!

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