One of my favourite things that the Dear Canada series has done is put together collections of Christmas-themed short stories that are addenda to the Dear Canada books themselves. I love it. And it’s Christmas time, so let’s have a look at them!
A Season for Miracles: Twelve Tales of Christmas, various authors, 2006.
To go through every short story would involve spoilers, so let me just give a brief recap of each short story and what book it’s connected to!
- Lo, the Perfect Plan (A Prairie as Wide as the Sea: The Immigrant Diary of Ivy Weatherall, Milorie, Saskatchewan, 1927), Sarah Ellis. A postscript to the novel, Ivy finds herself having problems with her best friend Elizabeth and the Christmas pageant. Elizabeth is struggling with missing her older brother Gerhard and befriending a girl Ivy doesn’t like. Ivy hatches a plan to both get her friend back and heal the wound in her family.
- The Keepsake Box (Banished from Our Home: The Acadian Diary of Angelique Richard, Grand-Pre, Acadia, 1756), Sharon Stewart. Another postscript. Angelique’s family is struggling trying to make ends meet in Baltimore, and while she works as a maid in an English house, her father is having a hard time finding carpentry work. She hears about a carpenter who might be looking for an assistant, and nearly makes things a thousand times worse before things come right in the end.
- Stirring Up A Storm (A Ribbon of Shining Steel: The Railway Diary of Kate Cameron, Yale, British Columbia, 1883), Julie Lawson. Another postscript. Kate’s sister Mary is just two months old, and her grandmother is coming for a visit over the holidays, so Kate has an awful lot of things on her plate. While initially she’s miserable with her grandmother there griping about everything, eventually Kate learns that she and her grandmother have more in common than she first thought
- Small Beginnings (Winter of Peril: The Newfoundland Diary of Sophie Loveridge, Mairie’s Cove, New-Found-Land, 1722), Jan Andrews. Sophie has moved down to Trinity, where she wants to teach her friend Tamsin to read and write despite the opposition. She manages to convince everyone that reading and writing is a way for everyone to better themselves—which is what everyone is really looking for there.
- What A Blessing Is This Peace (Alone in an Untamed Land: The Filles du Roi Diary of Helene St. Onge, Montreal, New France, 1667), Maxine Trottier. Helene is happily married to Jean, and step-mother to her friend Kateri, but she is frustrated that Jean is planning to visit the Mohawk encampment, where his first wife was from. But it turns out he has been planning to take her after all, and they are all pleased to meet her. It turns out that it’s a lucky thing she’s there, because she and her friend manage to save a sick infant just in time for Christmas.
- Shelter from the Cold (Footsteps in the Snow: The Red River Diary of Isobel Scott, Rupert’s Land, 1817), Carol Matas. Isobel and her family have had to move once again, but just before Christmas Isobel finds a dog with a broken leg and attempts to nurse her back to health in secret. The dog is discovered, of course, but Isobel is allowed to keep it after it turns out that having a dog can be a great boon in a settlement like theirs after all.
- A Home Girl’s Christmas (Orphan at My Door: The Home Child Diary of Victoria Cope, Guelph, Ontario, 1897), Jean Little. This is a sequel story, but it’s not from Victoria’s point of view—it’s from Marianna’s, the actual Home Girl in question! Marianna is having issues with another Home Girl at her school, Sadie, and still struggling with being jealous of Victoria and her piano lessons. By Christmas, though, it turns out that the Copes have gotten Marianna piano lessons as a Christmas gift, and Sadie’s departure from the school means that she is no longer there to make fun of Marianna after all.
- An Unexpected Gift (An Ocean Apart: The Gold Mountain Diary of Chin Mei-Ling, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1923), Gillian Chan. This is a sequel, but it takes place a good three years after the end of the novel in question, when Mei is spending Christmas in Ontario with her former tutor, Miss MacDonald, and her family. They’re very well-off, and while Mei is initially uncomfortable with the privilege and the racism of some of the MacDonalds’ friends, it turns out that the family are very friendly and happy to have her there, and she enjoys her time there far more than she expected to.
- This one is untitled. Granted, it’s a prequel collection of letters, but…could have sprung for a title, Scholastic. Anyway, it’s from A Rebel’s Daughter: The 1837 Diary of Arabella Stevenson, Toronto, Upper Canada, 1837 by Janet Lunn. I’ll also note briefly that this one appears to be less edited than everything else because they left a damn word out of the title of the book (it should be, of course, “The 1837 Rebellion Diary” but whatever). Anyway, it’s a letter Arabella writes to an ill friend of hers about her Christmas. It’s about some very distant relatives who come to visit from England and more or less ruin Christmas. This is so bizarre—it’s barely even anything. As if the lack of a title and not even getting the book’s title was enough of a tip-off that this one was entirely phoned in, now we know for real.
- The Word for Home (With Nothing But Our Courage: The Loyalist Diary of Mary MacDonald, Jamestown, Quebec, 1783), Karleen Bradford. Mary and her family are safely in Quebec in their own cabin, at last, but it’s a very snowy and cold winter. Their dog, Laddie, gets loose in the woods in the teeth of a snowstorm, and after it’s settled Mary’s younger brother Jamie goes out to look for her. When he doesn’t come back shortly, Mary goes to find him, and both of them are nearly attacked by a pack of wolves and are only saved by one of her father’s Indian friends. But when they get home, they find that Laddie made it home on his own after all.
- A Night to Rejoice (A Trail of Broken Dreams: The Gold Rush Diary of Harriet Palmer, Overland to the Cariboo, 1862), Barbara Haworth-Attard. Harriet and her friend have been separated from their friend Talbot and want to see him for Christmas, so they undertake a fairly treacherous trip only to find him ill and in need of care on Christmas Eve. They manage to take care of him and they’re reunited for Christmas again.
- No Room for Christmas (Whispers of War: The War of 1812 Diary of Susanna Merritt, Niagara, Upper Canada, 1812), Kit Pearson. Niagara has been burned to the ground and Hannah, the Merritt’s housekeeper at their Niagara house, has come to join the rest of the family—although it’s packed with Susanna, her mother, her married sister Caroline and niece Adelaide, her younger sister Maria, their servant Tabitha, and occasional visits from Susanna’s father, brother, and Caroline’s husband. Everyone is at each other’s throats, and then some of Susanna’s parents’ friends come to stay since they have nowhere else to go—four more people. But Susanna manages to befriend Phoebe, and the Christmas they have turns out to be a wonderful one indeed—new friends and Maria even becomes engaged.
Next week: another round of Christmas stories!