‘The Noel Stranger’ — a familiar, yet cozy holiday tale

You thought you knew what was inside the box.

Though it was wrapped, you could tell what it was. You shook it, upended it, and picked at the tape, absolutely positive that you knew what was inside that colorful paper — but as in the new novel “The Noel Stranger” by Richard Paul Evans, mistakes do happen at Christmastime.

Maggie Walther was sure that everyone in Utah was staring at her.

It was for nothing she did, except to marry Clive all those years ago. Except to stand beside him, supporting him as he dived into politics, throwing fundraisers for him and playing hostess. Except to be the last to know that her husband had another wife and children in another state.

Stricken and ashamed, Maggie’d been staying home, away from crowds. She couldn’t sleep, couldn’t run her business, could barely even get dressed and her assistant, Carina, was worried. Couldn’t Maggie at least manage to put up a Christmas tree?

And so, on a freezing pre-Thanksgiving weekend, Maggie went to find a tree. And that’s where the holidays turned for her.

He was handsome and funny, and helped her find an easy tree to care for. His name was Andrew, and he offered to deliver the goods when Maggie’s car turned out to be too small for tree-hauling. She offered him a cup of coffee. He offered to help decorate the tree. She made him dinner. They talked and laughed and compared divorce-survivor notes. And in two weeks’ time, they fell in love.

It seemed impossible, really, that her heart could leap so quickly after being hurt so much but Maggie was head-over-heels. Andrew was responsible, kind, understanding, he was everything she needed. Carina warned her to slow down, especially after Andrew invited Maggie to Cabo for a week, but Maggie couldn’t remember the last time she smiled as much as she did with Andrew around.

Yet, how much did she really know about him?

Not much at all, as it turned out…

First, this: Fans of author Richard Paul Evans. Yes. Go ahead now, get this book. G’wan. Get outta here.

Now. If you’re new to Evans’ fiction, what you’ll get inside “The Noel Stranger” is a decent enough romancy-Christmassy tale in which someone has been hurt somehow, but meets someone else who heals them during the holidays. As you will inside other Evans holiday books, you’ll find extremely well-crafted characters and deep details that make it all seem more real, plus a snowscape and an argument that throws the novel briefly off-course before Happily-Ever-After. That makes this story formulaic, yes, but it’s as traditional and beloved as bulbs on branches and star on treetop, and it’s going to put you in a good Christmas mood.

This is a book you can give to your teen and to grandma without reservation. It’s a pretty fast read, and it pairs fairly well with cocoa and a warm blanket on a cold night. For you, or to give, “The Noel Stranger” has it in the box.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the bookworm.


• By TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER, Bookworm Sez


More in Life

Salmon, greens and an assortment of spices are combined with noodles to make a creative pasta bowl. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Raiding the freezer, fridge and spice cabinet

Basic salmon patties can be used in an assortment of meals.

Asian meatballs made by Teri Robl on March 23, 2020, in her Homer, Alaska, kitchen. (Photo by Teri Robl)
Kachemak Cuisine: During uncertain time, slow down and cherish good food

Join me in the kitchen, if only in spirit, and make a pot of soup from scratch.

Photo by Victoria Petersen
                                This “perfectly herby salad,” inspired by a recipe from New York Times food columnist Alison Roman, is the perfect antidote to a cold, snowy winter weather.
Kalifornsky Kitchen: A perfectly herby salad

A new column by reporter Victoria Petersen.

File
Minister’s Message: Practicing the right steps of presence

Instead of taking time to listen for God’s plan, I spun my mental wheels.

The secret ingredients in Teri Robl’s Oxtail Soup with Root Vegetables and Barley are beef oxtails, as seen here in a soup she made in her kitchen on March 10, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Teri Robl)
Kachemak Cuisine: Oxtails are the secret to rich beef stock

One of the best batches of beef barley soup I’ve made.

Cora Trowbridge stands by her art, “Behind the Mask,” on March 6, 2020, at the Disability Art Show at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Artists look at disability in Homer Council on the Arts show

Each artist includes a statement about their experience with disability.

Nick Varney
What’s next, ya ornery cuss?

Old Man Winter’s various personalities easily qualify as a layered howling mob of sociopaths.

File
Minister’s Message: Persevering through tough times with God’s love

What does the Bible say about how we are to react to troubles, hardship and bad news?

A collection of Deborah Poore’s paintings at Grace Ridge Brewery on Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. “It’s an interesting hanging space there,” she said of the display area at the brewery. “You’re really presenting those pieces as a collage. You have to squish them together.” (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
In retirement, Deborah Poore returns to her art

“When I do my art, it’s a celebration of the things close to me that I love.”

Ann Berg
Pioneer Potluck: Old black stoves and wringer washing machines

The old farmhouse was cozy and warm in the kitchen with the big black cookstove in the corner.

Minister’s Message: Finding time

God’s word offers timely advice about time.