Julianna's Reviews > The Reindeer Keeper: Believe Again...

The Reindeer Keeper by Barbara Briggs Ward
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's review
Dec 28, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: desert-island-keepers, general-fiction, holiday-stories, read-2010
Recommended for: Fans of The Christmas Shoes, Tear-Jerkers, Heartwarming Holiday Stories
Read from December 27 to 28, 2010 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Reviewed for THC Reviews
"4.5 stars" The Reindeer Keeper is a short novel about love, life, family and loss with a dash of magical realism on the side. It is by turns both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Abbey and Steve, the main protagonists are a more mature couple (around 60-ish), but their love and passion for one another hasn't dimmed one bit in the 30+ years they've been married. Their love was a palpable thing throughout the entire story. Their life together hasn't always been easy, but they've been each other's rock through the bad times, and taken great joy in the good times.

Abbey and Steve begin the book preparing to spend Christmas with their two sons, a daughter-in-law and the other son's girlfriend in a new house that was bequeathed to Abbey's father by a mysterious, reclusive stranger and then passed to her when her father died. It is the first time they've all been together in a while and it turns out to be a beautiful and joyous occasion. The magic of Christmas works through Abbey to finally help her make peace with her mother's death when she was a teenager. She in turn is able to see and understand the same feelings of loss in her daughter-in-law, who up to this point, has been rather difficult to like. Abbey is also able to help rekindle her son's dream/talent for cooking, and assist both him and his wife in understanding that they do have choices in life. It's just sometimes hard to make them when it means changing everything to which you've become accustomed. After the holidays and throughout the coming year, Abbey and Steve face the biggest challenge of their lives, as everyone deals with a devastating loss, but the spirit of Christmas continues to sustain them.

I liked how the author used a bit of magical realism in the form of Santa Claus. In the midst of an incredibly serious story, there were moments of surreal escape, but it wasn't just for fun and games. Santa became a universal, non-religious illustration of faith and how it sometimes takes going back to that pure faith of childhood in order to believe in something greater than ourselves. I liked how Santa took the characters back to that place in the past to help them understand the present and future. There is also a lovely message about how each person can touch other people's lives and even after death, they live on in the small things. Life still goes on for the living, and we just have to open our hearts to look for our loved ones who have passed on in the spirit they left behind.

The Reindeer Keeper was a much sadder book than I was expecting, so readers should definitely keep a box of tissues handy for this one. I'm tearing up just writing this review. It's difficult to use the word enjoy to describe a book that is this melancholy, but I did like it very much. This is one of those books that has a lovely message to impart rather than a feel-good story to tell. It has no objectionable elements which should make it appropriate for readers of all ages from teen and up, although the older protagonists and the mature subject matter may not resonate as well with younger people. The only thing that kept me from giving it a perfect five stars is that I thought the writing itself could have used a bit more polish. It was just little things like the dialog not flowing as naturally as it could have in places or needing a few more details here and there. Overall though, The Reindeer Keeper was a book filled with heart and soul from beginning to end that has found a spot on my keeper shelf. I definitely recommend that readers who liked The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere, or similar books, give this one a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author via the publicist, Bostick Communications, in exchange for my review.
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Reading Progress

12/29/2010 page 171
100.0% "A story with a beautiful message about love, life, family and loss. Review coming soon."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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extraordinary ordinary whimsy O sounds like something I would like :)

Julianna It's a very good book, but also very bittersweet - a real tearjerker for sure.

extraordinary ordinary whimsy OOoo good to know! I like to know when something is going to make me cry :)

message 4: by Allison (last edited Jan 26, 2011 05:09PM) (new)

Allison Sounds very interesting Julie. Definitely goes on my "to read" list...

Julianna It was a very good book. I hope you like it, Allison.

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