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Written by Brianne Martin
The main theme of the novel is romance; the main character, Kim Rossi, wants to be a romantic fiction writer and the majority of the plot revolves around the romantic fiction writing conference that she is attending. Romance is studied from all perspectives; Kim has actually had three incredibly unsuccessful romances, having been left at the altar, dumped after an engagement and married to a history professor whose grades for sexual favors with his female students made the national news. Her fellow writer, Zeke, is also a closet romantic and deeply loves his wife whom he tells Kim has left him. Kim also tries to inject fresh romance onto her father's life by encouraging him to date a woman he has met at the Veteran's hospital, but he is really still in love with Kim's late mother.
Romance is always viewed in a favorable light throughout the book and the settings are all very romantic, such as the rustic inn in snowy Vermont, or pre-Christmas New York City.
Depression and Suicide
Kim's mother committed suicide when Kim was eleven years old, after many unsuccessful attempts as Kim was growing up. Having suffered from mild depression most of her adult life, she was able to cope with it until she gave birth to Kim, when hormonal changes triggered a downward spiral that she seemed unable to find her way back from. To Kim, if seemed as if her mother had been selfish and left them but to Kim's father it was a tragic loss of a woman who had valiantly battled depression and loved both himself and his daughter dearly.
Zeke became suicidal after the death of his wife and unborn child during his wife's pregnancy. He became more and more depressed until he was unable to function on a day to day basis, also turning to alcohol to self-medicate. If his housecleaner had not found him, he would have died after overdosing on painkillers.
the author takes trouble to explain the symptoms of depression and the way in which it changes the ability of the mind to think rationally, and explores the guilt faced by the relatives of the person who has committed suicide who on some level believe they could have done something to save them.
Throughout the book we are shown that the healthcare offered to veterans with their insurance is woefully inadequate and that having sacrificed themselves for the country they deserve much better. Kim's father has a great chance of bearing cancer with surgery but has to wait so long for the actual procedure that the cancer could spread elsewhere in his body; however the program is so underfunded and the demand so great that this is the best the Veterans' Hospital is able to offer. Through his friends who join them for Thanksgiving, the reader also learns more about the challenges facing combat-wounded veterans after they return home.
The book is Christmas themed from its title onwards, primarily because it takes place over the holiday season but also because of the Christmas-y nature of the surroundings. The location for the writing conference is The Mistletoe Inn and attendance at the conference is Kim's Christmas gift from her father. The scenery is always Christmas-y and Zeke and Kim's trip to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is filled with Christmas markets and food; the name of the city also reminds us of Bethlehem and the very first Christmas.
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