The Christmas Train, by Rexanne Becnel****

thechristmastrainRexanne Becnel has written a brief, sweet, sentimental story that can only play at Christmas time. Were I to read this story in February, I would roll my eyes. In April, I would stick two fingers down my throat and make little retching noises.

Note that although the publisher bills this as a romance, it is really a love story between many family members, and the protagonist is a child. A great big thank you goes to Net Galley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC.

In October, in November, in December, I sigh contentedly. It really is about the season. Maybe those of us who celebrate this season find permission in it to drop our guards and bury our noses in sentimental stories. It did me a world of good!

Anna is ten years old, and her beloved Nana Rose, the grandmother with whom she has lived most of her life, has died. Her mother can’t wait to spend the money from the sale of Nana Rose’s house, and has no intention of raising her own child for those remaining childhood years. She sends a quick message off to Anna’s father in Iowa telling him the kid is coming and it’s his turn. Then she takes her kid to the train station and dumps her there. First, though, the rules require she find an adult for her ten-year-old to travel with. She finds a very elderly, fragile woman who is headed for the same train stop as Anna, and after a quick conversation to line things up, she drops her girl with the gran-stand-in and books it. Done.

Anna is devastated, and she is afraid of the father her mother claimed had never wanted her. She fantasizes about remaining with the sweet old lady, who reminds her a bit of her own late grandmother. But this old lady has problems of her own.

The tale is beautifully paced, and the characterizations absolutely believable. I could imagine being the child, and I could imagine being the elderly lady.

I dove into this tender bit of prose late one evening and waking with the flu, picked it up again and stayed with it till satisfied, when the last page was turned. After all, I couldn’t abandon the child, and I had to see to the elderly woman, too.

The ending was a little over the top, and if I had my way, I would delete one sentence, but hey, it’s Christmas. Well, almost.

Highly recommended for those who love Christmas!

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