One Imperfect Christmas

( 83 )

Overview

Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she’s allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves—most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she’s one Christmas away from hitting...
See more details below
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (29) from $1.99   
  • New (7) from $2.95   
  • Used (22) from $1.99   
One Imperfect Christmas

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49
BN.com price
(Save 30%)$14.99 List Price

Overview

Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she’s allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves—most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she’s one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom

Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit’s end. Nothing he’s done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa’s adolescent rebellion isn’t helping matters. As Daniel’s hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Natalie Pearce has always loved Christmas, but when her mother suffers a stroke while putting away the holiday decorations, Natalie's spirit is affected in more ways than one. She has a meltdown that jeopardizes her marriage; the only way to put her life back together is to make peace with her guilt about not being there to help her mother and to regain her faith that God will see her through the chaos. VERDICT Some stilted prose and a predictable plot in this debut novel are balanced by a heartwarming story that is appropriate for the Christmas season.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781426700705
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Myra Johnson is an award-winning author. She and her husband of 42 years proudly claim two beautiful daughters, two fine sons-in-law, precious grandchildren, and a pair of playful pooches. They live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Learn more about Myra and her books at MyraJohnson.com.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

One Imperfect Christmas


By Myra Johnson

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2009 Myra Johnson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-1367-5


CHAPTER 1

Natalie Pearce padded into the kitchen in her new velour robe and fuzzy orange-and-white slippers that looked like little foxes. They were a Christmas present from her husband, Daniel, just three weeks ago. The gift tag had read: "To one foxy lady!"

First thing in the morning, straw-blonde hair still tangled from sleep, she felt anything but foxy. Still, her cheeks warmed as she considered inviting Daniel back to the bedroom for a few more minutes of snuggling. Then she remembered this was Saturday—her day to play "coach's widow." After nearly fifteen years of marriage she still hated her husband's erratic schedule. On Christmas Eve her parents had celebrated their forty-eighth wedding anniversary, a legacy of love Natalie hoped she and Daniel could emulate. But was such a dream even possible when the two of them seemed to operate in different time zones?

She paused at the breakfast table and set her hands on her hips. As usual, he'd left the newspaper in shambles, the comics pulled from one section and the sports page decimated after he'd clipped all the articles covering Putnam Middle School's athletic teams.

Daniel breezed into the kitchen, sneakers squeaking on the ceramic tile floor. "Hey, hon, sorry about the paper." He planted a toothpaste-flavored kiss on her parted lips. "I'd sort it out for you, but I'm already running late. I'm meeting Carl at Casey's Diner to carpool to the tournament."

Natalie fought to keep her smile in place as she gave him a playful punch in the stomach. "What's new? Get out of here before I decide not to let you go at all."

"Promises, promises." He wiggled his dark eyebrows.

"Seriously, before you go ...," she said in her sexiest voice. She clutched the lapels of his red Putnam Panthers jacket and pulled him toward her.

With a seductive grin, Daniel drew her into his arms. "Sweetheart, I told you, I'm already running late."

She chuckled and bit his ear. "Sorry, Coach, I just wanted to ask you again what time your parents will be here."

"Woman, you break my heart!" He slammed a hand to his chest as if he'd been shot. "Ah, now I get it. You want to know exactly how much time you have to clean the house."

So she wasn't the world's greatest housekeeper—one trait she didn't inherit from her mother. Who cared about a little clutter on the kitchen counters, or last night's pizza pan still soaking in the sink? So what if she hadn't dusted since Thanksgiving? Hard to do with Christmas decorations covering every flat, dusty surface in the house.

Daniel seemed to read her thoughts. He tilted her chin until she reluctantly met his gaze. "Next weekend. Promise me, okay? The Christmas decorations need to come down."

She pushed out her lower lip. "Only if you stay home and help. It's depressing to do it all by myself."

"I'll check my schedule." He gathered up his car keys and canvas briefcase and then slicked a hand through ash-brown hair still damp from his shower. "Mom and Dad won't get here before three at the earliest, so you've got plenty of time to enjoy your coffee." He glanced at his watch. "And I don't. I'm out of here, sweetie. With any luck, I'll be home in time for dinner."

"That'll be the day."

The door to the garage banged shut behind him, sending a puff of wintry air into the kitchen. Moments later Natalie heard the ancient green Bronco grumble a couple of times before starting up. The poor thing must have nearly 200,000 miles on it. How Daniel kept it running, she hadn't a clue, but what with paying the mortgage on their dream home and keeping their thirteen-year-old fashionista daughter in designer jeans, replacing a vehicle wasn't in the budget. She sent up a quick prayer for Daniel's safety on the road and hoped the weather held. The last she'd heard, the predicted snow wouldn't arrive until tomorrow morning.

Her chest caved. Much as she enjoyed the visits with Daniel's parents, Alice Pearce was an even more meticulous housekeeper than Natalie's mother. No way around it—the cleaning had to get done. Maybe Natalie could bribe her daughter into helping. After all, half the mess was Lissa's school books, art supplies, and discarded shoes dropped haphazardly between the kitchen door and her bedroom upstairs.

So much for getting back to the watercolor landscape Natalie had begun last weekend. At least her freelance graphic design assignments had tapered off now that the holidays had passed. The extra income supplemented Daniel's small-town coaching salary, but Natalie dreamed of making her living as a fine artist—thanks to her mother's teaching and inspiration. She'd much rather pursue her own creative visions than those of her finicky clients.

She poured a glass of orange juice and a mug of coffee and then dropped an English muffin into the toaster. She'd barely sat down to spread the muffin with her mother's homemade apricot jam when Lissa flounced into the kitchen, her long blonde hair pinned up with mismatched butterfly clips. Natalie suppressed a laugh and lifted her hands in mock surrender. "Is this the part where you say, 'Take me to your leader'?"

"Oh, Mom, how juvenile!" Lissa swiped her finger through the jam jar and licked off a sticky, amber glob. "Have you seen my pink sweater—the one with the gray stripe across the front?"

Natalie sipped her coffee. "Did you check the laundry hamper?"

"Yes, twice."

"The floor of your room?"

"Mother!"

"How about the closet? Any chance you actually hung it up?"

Lissa clenched her fists. "Mom, I need some help here. Jody and her mom are picking me up in twenty minutes."

Natalie gave her daughter a blank stare.

"Earth to Mo-ther." Lissa rolled her eyes.

"Oh, rats, the youth group skating party." No help cleaning from Lissa today. With a sigh, Natalie bit into her English muffin. "Sorry, honey, but I have no idea where your sweater is. Can't you find something else to wear?"

The ringing telephone halted whatever sarcastic retort Lissa was about to spit out. She squinted at the caller ID on the kitchen extension and grabbed the receiver. "Jody! Did I leave my sweater over there when I spent the night last weekend? Great! Bring it with you. I'll put it on in the car." She hung up and dashed through the den, yanking clips out of her hair and tossing them on the sofa.

"Lissa!"

"Sorry, Mom. I'll get them later, I promise!" Lissa's bedroom door slammed with finality.

Right, when pigs fly. Sure, Natalie could insist Lissa pick up after herself before leaving for the party, but a battle of wills with a headstrong preteen? No-brainer—it was guaranteed to ruin the entire day for both of them. She made a promise to herself, though, that one day very soon she and Daniel would sit down with Lissa and lay out some ground rules— before Lissa's adolescent self-centeredness got completely out of hand.

Natalie refilled her coffee mug and carried the remains of the newspaper to the den. Fifteen more minutes and she'd have the house to herself and maybe a little time to work on that watercolor before she got serious about cleaning.

Lissa had been gone barely five minutes when the phone rang again. Natalie, settled in the recliner under a snuggly fleece throw, was tempted not to answer it—probably another of Lissa's perky seventh-grade friends calling to ask what she planned to wear to the party.

Then the answering machine picked up, and after Natalie's recorded greeting and the beep, she heard her mother's voice. "Hi, Natalie, just me. Guess you're out running errands. I'll call later—"

Natalie shook off her annoyance and jumped up to grab the kitchen extension. "Hey, Mom, I'm here."

"Oh, good, glad I caught you." Her mother's cheery voice turned cajoling. "It's that time again, sweetheart. Can I twist your arm to help?"

Apprehension propelled Natalie into the nearest chair. Her mother didn't even have to speak the words. "Oh, Mom, does it have to be today? Taking down Christmas decorations is my least favorite chore in the world. Daniel's already on my case about ours." She gave a weak laugh. "You know me. I'd leave them up year-round if I could." Someday she'd do just that and hire someone to come in and dust them off once a month.

"I know, and I'm sorry to even ask." Mom sounded genuinely sympathetic. "But your dad went to that horse auction, and it's my turn to host the church ladies' book club tomorrow afternoon."

"Did you try Hart and Celia?" Natalie's brother and sister-in-law lived just a few miles from the farm.

"Hart went with your dad to the auction, and Celia's taking Kurt and Kevin to their basketball game." Mom paused. "I'll make apple dumplings and hot cider."

"Bribery—that is so not fair." Natalie patted her stomach. "I already need to sweat off at least five pounds of Christmas goodies."

"Lifting Christmas boxes is good exercise."

Obviously, Mom wasn't going to give up. Natalie stared out the bay window. She needed to come up with some logical reason why Mom should postpone this depressing annual chore. Her gaze settled on the bank of gray snow clouds looming on the horizon. She shivered just thinking about venturing out on this frosty January day.

She offered an idea. "Think of how much the ladies would enjoy the decorations. It wouldn't hurt to leave them up a little longer, would it?"

"Natalie, the tree is completely dry and dropping needles all over the carpet. It really must come down today." A note of apology tinged her mother's voice. "I should have asked your father to help me earlier in the week, but the time got away from us."

"You know I'd do anything for you, Mom, and if it were any other weekend—" Yes, come to think of it, she had a ready-made excuse. She tried not to let the rush of gratitude creep into her tone. "Remember I told you Daniel's parents are driving over this afternoon? Daniel's at a tournament in Fielding to scout basketball teams, and Lissa's at a skating party. I need to clean house and shop for groceries before they get here."

Not that she actually intended to do all that much. If her mother had asked her help for anything else—rearranging furniture, washing windows, even shoveling snow off the front walk—she'd have driven out to the farm on a moment's notice.

But taking down Christmas decorations?

Her mother gave a wry laugh. "It's okay. Don't worry, I'll manage by myself."

Mom's disappointment tarnished Natalie's brief glow of triumph and raised a moment of concern. Her stubborn mother would "manage" all right. She'd take on the whole project by herself, arthritis and all. Natalie pressed the phone against her ear. "Now, Mom, don't you try to carry all those boxes out to the barn. You'll aggravate your bad wrist again, and you won't be able to paint for a week."

"Natalie—"

"I mean it, Mom. Stack the decorations out of sight in the downstairs guestroom, and I'll come by one day next week to help you pack everything away."

After eliciting her mother's assurance she wouldn't take on too much, Natalie said goodbye. Just a few more days to psych herself up for the end of the holidays, that's all she asked. Shrugging off the last twinges of guilt, Natalie snuggled into the recliner to finish her coffee.

Around ten, she finally talked herself into exchanging her comfy robe and those adorable slippers for paint-stained sweats and grungy sneakers. Like it or not, she needed to do a cursory cleaning before her in-laws arrived. She'd just finished loading the dishwasher and returned from the garage with the sponge mop when the phone rang again.

This time it was Daniel's father, calling to say the winter frontal system had already hit their part of the state. With two inches of snow on the ground and more expected, they'd decided not to chance the drive.

A crazy mix of relief and disappointment flooded Natalie. Daniel didn't get to see his folks that often, and Lissa had been planning an after-Christmas shopping trip with her grandmother ever since they'd first mentioned coming. But an excuse to postpone housecleaning? Definitely cause for celebration. Natalie loaded the stereo with her favorite Christmas CDs, set up her easel and paints in front of the bay window, and settled in for her version of the perfect Saturday.

Hours later, she was adding the finishing touches to a winter landscape when the phone startled her. The paintbrush skittered across the canvas, marring a stately pine with aquamarine streaks. Natalie mumbled a few choice words and glanced at the mantle clock as she wiped her hands on a paint rag. Five already? Where had the day gone? Daniel and Lissa would be home soon. She needed to wrap things up and figure out something for supper. Mentally sorting through the freezer contents for a quick and simple meal, she picked up the kitchen extension.

"Natalie?" her dad's voice sounded ragged—choked with panic. "Come to the hospital right away. It's your mother."

Her stomach plummeted. She pictured her mother at the bottom of a ladder amidst a pile of Christmas decorations. "What happened? Is she okay?"

Sprained ankle? Broken hip? Oh, Mom, why couldn't you wait?

"Just ... get here." Her father clicked off before she could press him for details.

Dread coiled around her heart. She threw a parka over her sweats and grabbed her purse and keys off the counter. When she gunned the engine to back out of the garage, her trusty silver Saturn screeched in protest. The side mirror nicked the doorframe, and she barely missed taking out the mailbox and the neighbor's trash can. She drove like a maniac to Putnam General, all the while berating herself for ignoring Mom's request for help. After everything her mother had sacrificed for her, she could only pray these new injuries wouldn't cripple her mother for life.

Natalie burst through the ER entrance and scanned the faces in the congested waiting area. A mother holding an ice pack against her son's forehead. An ashen-faced woman dozing against an elderly man's shoulder. Whimpering babies. Frightened children. Anxious parents.

She spotted her father's silver-gray head across the room, where he paced in front of a set of double doors. Her brother, Hart, stood close by with his hands tucked into his blue-jeans pockets, rocking on his heels.

Natalie rushed over and touched her father's arm. "Dad, how's Mom? Tell me it's not serious."

Her father turned and looked at her—looked through her. "They think it's a stroke." His face crumpled as his thin veneer of strength collapsed. He pressed a fist to his mouth and pulled her to him, squeezing her so tightly, she could hardly breathe.

Natalie struggled away and stared at him, not comprehending. A stroke? Ice-cold terror crackled through her veins. She spun to face her brother and seized his wrist. "Hart?"

"It's bad, Nat. Real bad." He drew her into his arms, and she felt her brother's fear in every tense muscle of his body.

A tall, bearded man in hospital greens pushed through the double doors. "Mr. Morgan? I'm Dr. Wyatt." He indicated a frayed blue sofa, the only empty seat in the waiting area. "Why don't we sit down."

Natalie blocked his way. "Just tell us, how is my mother? She'll be okay, right?"

"I wish I had better news." The doctor glanced at the chart he held.

"But there's stuff you can do for a stroke these days. I saw it on TV."

"It isn't that simple. Please try to understand." Dr. Wyatt attempted to explain her mother's condition, tossing out phrases about blood clots and clot-dissolving medications and something about a three-hour time window before irreversible brain damage set in.

A sob tore from Natalie's throat. "Are you saying she got here too late? That there's nothing you can do?"

"We'll continue to do all we can to minimize the damage, but under the circumstances ... " The doctor gave a one-shoulder shrug. "I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry."

CHAPTER 2

Natalie ran a thumb across the misshapen knuckles of her mother's hand as it rested quietly in her own. More than two weeks had passed, with no significant improvement. To see her mother hooked up to all those tubes and monitors, to realize she might never wake up, much less speak or hold a paintbrush or even recognize her family again—how could Natalie ever forgive herself for letting this happen?

One phrase slithered through her thoughts, accusing her, condemning her: If she'd received immediate treatment ...

"Good morning, Mrs. Pearce." A plump nurse in scrubs the color of Pepto-Bismol breezed into the room and patted her shoulder. "Have you been here all night again?"

Natalie bristled. "Where else would I be?"

"How about home with your family?" A pitying smile quirked the nurse's lips in a look Natalie had come to despise. "Seriously, there's nothing you can do here. Get some rest. Eat a decent meal." After another condescending shoulder pat, the nurse inventoried her mother's vitals and monitor readings.

Rest? Eat? The woman had to be kidding. A king-size cup of industrial-strength cafeteria coffee, on the other hand, might get her through the morning. She looped her purse over her shoulder and trudged out to the corridor.

When the elevator doors slid open, Natalie almost collided with her father as he stepped off. His accusing expression mirrored the nurse's. "Natalie Rose. Have you been home at all since I saw you yesterday?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson. Copyright © 2009 Myra Johnson. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

One Imperfect Christmas


By Myra Johnson

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2009 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4267-0070-5


Chapter One

Natalie Pearce padded into the kitchen in her new velour robe and fuzzy orange-and-white slippers that looked like little foxes. They were a Christmas present from her husband, Daniel, just three weeks ago. The gift tag had read: "To one foxy lady!"

First thing in the morning, straw-blonde hair still tangled from sleep, she felt anything but foxy. Still, her cheeks warmed as she considered inviting Daniel back to the bedroom for a few more minutes of snuggling. Then she remembered this was Saturday—her day to play "coach's widow." After nearly fifteen years of marriage she still hated her husband's erratic schedule. On Christmas Eve her parents had celebrated their forty-eighth wedding anniversary, a legacy of love Natalie hoped she and Daniel could emulate. But was such a dream even possible when the two of them seemed to operate in different time zones?

She paused at the breakfast table and set her hands on her hips. As usual, he'd left the newspaper in shambles, the comics pulled from one section and the sports page decimated after he'd clipped all the articles covering Putnam Middle School's athletic teams.

Daniel breezed into the kitchen, sneakers squeaking on the ceramic tile floor. "Hey, hon, sorry about the paper." He planted a toothpaste-flavored kiss on her parted lips. "I'd sort it out for you, but I'm already running late. I'm meeting Carl at Casey's Diner to carpool to the tournament."

Natalie fought to keep her smile in place as she gave him a playful punch in the stomach. "What's new? Get out of here before I decide not to let you go at all."

"Promises, promises." He wiggled his dark eyebrows.

"Seriously, before you go ...," she said in her sexiest voice. She clutched the lapels of his red Putnam Panthers jacket and pulled him toward her.

With a seductive grin, Daniel drew her into his arms. "Sweetheart, I told you, I'm already running late."

She chuckled and bit his ear. "Sorry, Coach, I just wanted to ask you again what time your parents will be here."

"Woman, you break my heart!" He slammed a hand to his chest as if he'd been shot. "Ah, now I get it. You want to know exactly how much time you have to clean the house."

So she wasn't the world's greatest housekeeper—one trait she didn't inherit from her mother. Who cared about a little clutter on the kitchen counters, or last night's pizza pan still soaking in the sink? So what if she hadn't dusted since Thanksgiving? Hard to do with Christmas decorations covering every flat, dusty surface in the house.

Daniel seemed to read her thoughts. He tilted her chin until she reluctantly met his gaze. "Next weekend. Promise me, okay? The Christmas decorations need to come down."

She pushed out her lower lip. "Only if you stay home and help. It's depressing to do it all by myself."

"I'll check my schedule." He gathered up his car keys and canvas briefcase and then slicked a hand through ash-brown hair still damp from his shower. "Mom and Dad won't get here before three at the earliest, so you've got plenty of time to enjoy your coffee." He glanced at his watch. "And I don't. I'm out of here, sweetie. With any luck, I'll be home in time for dinner."

"That'll be the day."

The door to the garage banged shut behind him, sending a puff of wintry air into the kitchen. Moments later Natalie heard the ancient green Bronco grumble a couple of times before starting up. The poor thing must have nearly 200,000 miles on it. How Daniel kept it running, she hadn't a clue, but what with paying the mortgage on their dream home and keeping their thirteen-year-old fashionista daughter in designer jeans, replacing a vehicle wasn't in the budget. She sent up a quick prayer for Daniel's safety on the road and hoped the weather held. The last she'd heard, the predicted snow wouldn't arrive until tomorrow morning.

Her chest caved. Much as she enjoyed the visits with Daniel's parents, Alice Pearce was an even more meticulous housekeeper than Natalie's mother. No way around it—the cleaning had to get done. Maybe Natalie could bribe her daughter into helping. After all, half the mess was Lissa's school books, art supplies, and discarded shoes dropped haphazardly between the kitchen door and her bedroom upstairs.

So much for getting back to the watercolor landscape Natalie had begun last weekend. At least her freelance graphic design assignments had tapered off now that the holidays had passed. The extra income supplemented Daniel's small-town coaching salary, but Natalie dreamed of making her living as a fine artist—thanks to her mother's teaching and inspiration. She'd much rather pursue her own creative visions than those of her finicky clients.

She poured a glass of orange juice and a mug of coffee and then dropped an English muffin into the toaster. She'd barely sat down to spread the muffin with her mother's homemade apricot jam when Lissa flounced into the kitchen, her long blonde hair pinned up with mismatched butterfly clips. Natalie suppressed a laugh and lifted her hands in mock surrender. "Is this the part where you say, 'Take me to your leader'?"

"Oh, Mom, how juvenile!" Lissa swiped her finger through the jam jar and licked off a sticky, amber glob. "Have you seen my pink sweater—the one with the gray stripe across the front?"

Natalie sipped her coffee. "Did you check the laundry hamper?"

"Yes, twice."

"The floor of your room?"

"Mother!"

"How about the closet? Any chance you actually hung it up?"

Lissa clenched her fists. "Mom, I need some help here. Jody and her mom are picking me up in twenty minutes."

Natalie gave her daughter a blank stare.

"Earth to Mo-ther." Lissa rolled her eyes.

"Oh, rats, the youth group skating party." No help cleaning from Lissa today. With a sigh, Natalie bit into her English muffin. "Sorry, honey, but I have no idea where your sweater is. Can't you find something else to wear?"

The ringing telephone halted whatever sarcastic retort Lissa was about to spit out. She squinted at the caller ID on the kitchen extension and grabbed the receiver. "Jody! Did I leave my sweater over there when I spent the night last weekend? Great! Bring it with you. I'll put it on in the car." She hung up and dashed through the den, yanking clips out of her hair and tossing them on the sofa.

"Lissa!"

"Sorry, Mom. I'll get them later, I promise!" Lissa's bedroom door slammed with finality.

Right, when pigs fly. Sure, Natalie could insist Lissa pick up after herself before leaving for the party, but a battle of wills with a headstrong preteen? No-brainer—it was guaranteed to ruin the entire day for both of them. She made a promise to herself, though, that one day very soon she and Daniel would sit down with Lissa and lay out some ground rules-before Lissa's adolescent self-centeredness got completely out of hand.

Natalie refilled her coffee mug and carried the remains of the newspaper to the den. Fifteen more minutes and she'd have the house to herself and maybe a little time to work on that watercolor before she got serious about cleaning.

Lissa had been gone barely five minutes when the phone rang again. Natalie, settled in the recliner under a snuggly fleece throw, was tempted not to answer it—probably another of Lissa's perky seventh-grade friends calling to ask what she planned to wear to the party.

Then the answering machine picked up, and after Natalie's recorded greeting and the beep, she heard her mother's voice. "Hi, Natalie, just me. Guess you're out running errands. I'll call later—"

Natalie shook off her annoyance and jumped up to grab the kitchen extension. "Hey, Mom, I'm here."

"Oh, good, glad I caught you." Her mother's cheery voice turned cajoling. "It's that time again, sweetheart. Can I twist your arm to help?"

Apprehension propelled Natalie into the nearest chair. Her mother didn't even have to speak the words. "Oh, Mom, does it have to be today? Taking down Christmas decorations is my least favorite chore in the world. Daniel's already on my case about ours." She gave a weak laugh. "You know me. I'd leave them up year-round if I could." Someday she'd do just that and hire someone to come in and dust them off once a month.

"I know, and I'm sorry to even ask." Mom sounded genuinely sympathetic. "But your dad went to that horse auction, and it's my turn to host the church ladies' book club tomorrow afternoon."

"Did you try Hart and Celia?" Natalie's brother and sister-in-law lived just a few miles from the farm.

"Hart went with your dad to the auction, and Celia's taking Kurt and Kevin to their basketball game." Mom paused. "I'll make apple dumplings and hot cider."

"Bribery—that is so not fair." Natalie patted her stomach. "I already need to sweat off at least five pounds of Christmas goodies."

"Lifting Christmas boxes is good exercise."

Obviously, Mom wasn't going to give up. Natalie stared out the bay window. She needed to come up with some logical reason why Mom should postpone this depressing annual chore. Her gaze settled on the bank of gray snow clouds looming on the horizon. She shivered just thinking about venturing out on this frosty January day.

She offered an idea. "Think of how much the ladies would enjoy the decorations. It wouldn't hurt to leave them up a little longer, would it?"

"Natalie, the tree is completely dry and dropping needles all over the carpet. It really must come down today." A note of apology tinged her mother's voice. "I should have asked your father to help me earlier in the week, but the time got away from us."

"You know I'd do anything for you, Mom, and if it were any other weekend—" Yes, come to think of it, she had a ready-made excuse. She tried not to let the rush of gratitude creep into her tone. "Remember I told you Daniel's parents are driving over this afternoon? Daniel's at a tournament in Fielding to scout basketball teams, and Lissa's at a skating party. I need to clean house and shop for groceries before they get here."

Not that she actually intended to do all that much. If her mother had asked her help for anything else—rearranging furniture, washing windows, even shoveling snow off the front walk—she'd have driven out to the farm on a moment's notice.

But taking down Christmas decorations?

Her mother gave a wry laugh. "It's okay. Don't worry, I'll manage by myself."

Mom's disappointment tarnished Natalie's brief glow of triumph and raised a moment of concern. Her stubborn mother would "manage" all right. She'd take on the whole project by herself, arthritis and all. Natalie pressed the phone against her ear. "Now, Mom, don't you try to carry all those boxes out to the barn. You'll aggravate your bad wrist again, and you won't be able to paint for a week."

"Natalie—"

"I mean it, Mom. Stack the decorations out of sight in the downstairs guestroom, and I'll come by one day next week to help you pack everything away."

After eliciting her mother's assurance she wouldn't take on too much, Natalie said good-bye. Just a few more days to psych herself up for the end of the holidays, that's all she asked. Shrugging off the last twinges of guilt, Natalie snuggled into the recliner to finish her coffee.

Around ten, she finally talked herself into exchanging her comfy robe and those adorable slippers for paint-stained sweats and grungy sneakers. Like it or not, she needed to do a cursory cleaning before her in-laws arrived. She'd just finished loading the dishwasher and returned from the garage with the sponge mop when the phone rang again.

This time it was Daniel's father, calling to say the winter frontal system had already hit their part of the state. With two inches of snow on the ground and more expected, they'd decided not to chance the drive.

A crazy mix of relief and disappointment flooded Natalie. Daniel didn't get to see his folks that often, and Lissa had been planning an after-Christmas shopping trip with her grandmother ever since they'd first mentioned coming. But an excuse to postpone housecleaning? Definitely cause for celebration. Natalie loaded the stereo with her favorite Christmas CDs, set up her easel and paints in front of the bay window, and settled in for her version of the perfect Saturday.

Hours later, she was adding the finishing touches to a winter landscape when the phone startled her. The paintbrush skittered across the canvas, marring a stately pine with aquamarine streaks. Natalie mumbled a few choice words and glanced at the mantle clock as she wiped her hands on a paint rag. Five already? Where had the day gone? Daniel and Lissa would be home soon. She needed to wrap things up and figure out something for supper. Mentally sorting through the freezer contents for a quick and simple meal, she picked up the kitchen extension.

"Natalie?" her dad's voice sounded ragged—choked with panic. "Come to the hospital right away. It's your mother."

Her stomach plummeted. She pictured her mother at the bottom of a ladder amidst a pile of Christmas decorations. "What happened? Is she okay?"

Sprained ankle? Broken hip? Oh, Mom, why couldn't you wait?

"Just ... get here." Her father clicked off before she could press him for details.

Dread coiled around her heart. She threw a parka over her sweats and grabbed her purse and keys off the counter. When she gunned the engine to back out of the garage, her trusty silver Saturn screeched in protest. The side mirror nicked the doorframe, and she barely missed taking out the mailbox and the neighbor's trash can. She drove like a maniac to Putnam General, all the while berating herself for ignoring Mom's request for help. After everything her mother had sacrificed for her, she could only pray these new injuries wouldn't cripple her mother for life.

Natalie burst through the ER entrance and scanned the faces in the congested waiting area. A mother holding an ice pack against her son's forehead. An ashen-faced woman dozing against an elderly man's shoulder. Whimpering babies. Frightened children. Anxious parents.

She spotted her father's silver-gray head across the room, where he paced in front of a set of double doors. Her brother, Hart, stood close by with his hands tucked into his blue-jeans pockets, rocking on his heels.

Natalie rushed over and touched her father's arm. "Dad, how's Mom? Tell me it's not serious."

Her father turned and looked at her—looked through her. "They think it's a stroke." His face crumpled as his thin veneer of strength collapsed. He pressed a fist to his mouth and pulled her to him, squeezing her so tightly, she could hardly breathe.

Natalie struggled away and stared at him, not comprehending. A stroke? Ice-cold terror crackled through her veins. She spun to face her brother and seized his wrist. "Hart?"

"It's bad, Nat. Real bad." He drew her into his arms, and she felt her brother's fear in every tense muscle of his body.

A tall, bearded man in hospital greens pushed through the double doors. "Mr. Morgan? I'm Dr. Wyatt." He indicated a frayed blue sofa, the only empty seat in the waiting area. "Why don't we sit down."

Natalie blocked his way. "Just tell us, how is my mother? She'll be okay, right?"

"I wish I had better news." The doctor glanced at the chart he held.

"But there's stuff you can do for a stroke these days. I saw it on TV."

"It isn't that simple. Please try to understand." Dr. Wyatt attempted to explain her mother's condition, tossing out phrases about blood clots and clot-dissolving medications and something about a three-hour time window before irreversible brain damage set in.

A sob tore from Natalie's throat. "Are you saying she got here too late? That there's nothing you can do?"

"We'll continue to do all we can to minimize the damage, but under the circumstances ..." The doctor gave a one-shoulder shrug. "I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson Copyright © 2009 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 83 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(30)

3 Star

(16)

2 Star

(6)

1 Star

(6)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 83 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 10, 2011

    Well Written but unsatisfying

    Myra Johnson starts with an intriguing premise: dealing with guilt and how that affects a marriage. But her main character, the one to who we are to relate, was so selfish that it was hard to sympathize with her. And her husband was annoyingly passive.
    One thing that especially bothered me, and that was emphasized by one of the discussion questions at the end, was the complete lack of community these supposed small-town, church-going people had. Natalie has no friend who comforts, supports, challenges her as she goes her unhappy, selfish way. Neither does their pastor involve himself, except in a very superficial way.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 12, 2013

    Graphic designer, Natalie Pearce, has problems with balancing he

    Graphic designer, Natalie Pearce, has problems with balancing her work, marriage, rebellious daughter and her own mother. When her mother suffers a stroke, Natalie must also deal with the “if only” emotions as well as the guilt and anger which require seeking God’s guidance. Natalie must now navigate through unforeseen circumstances…everything considered, definitely not the most ideal/ perfect Christmas that was hoped for…

    A PENNY FOR MY THOUGHTS:
    “One Imperfect Christmas” was an interesting read as it could be relevant to many lives. Definitely not a light Christmas story, this book was more realistic in looking at Christmas through the lenses of people requiring God’s grace in many situations. Though enjoyable, this book did tend to slow a bit in certain spots; however, the message was good (God has a plan even with the hard and difficult times in life). Living with regrets is never easy but the author, Myra Johnson, did a nice job with it. Well written for a debut novel; I look to reading more of her works.

    RATING:
    3 (out of 5) pennies

    *I received a complimentary copy of One Imperfect Christmas from Abingdon Press for my honest review*

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 7, 2012

    Pretty good read.

    This book was good, although I became very frustrated with the main character about half way through. It was written well, and the story line was interesting. I almost put it down, however, am glad I didn't because overall I enjoyed reading it and was happy with the ending. Definitely a good choice to read during the Christmas season.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 28, 2009

    An Imperfect Christmas

    I enjoyed this book. It was different from alot of christmas books and the book deals with serious issues. Myra has done a good job with this book. I appreciate how she deals with Natalie and I admit at times I wanted to shake her out of her feelings but I do appreciate guilt that can be associated with an elderly parent being sick or injured or in this case having a stroke. Guilt when a parent is in a nursing home is very hard to deal with but sometimes you have to let go of the guilt to go on. The way Natalies feelings affect the rest of the family is intersting to and I did enjoy how the story played out. The ending was well done and not quite what I expected but it was better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 22, 2009

    Moving novel about what tears families apart and keeps them together

    One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson is a poignant look at how tragedy can shatter a family. Natalie Pearce loves her life, and although she may complain about her messy husband or her teenage daughter's attitude, she's happy working part time as a graphic designer and painting in her spare time. Three weeks after Christmas, she receives a phone call that brings her entire world to a shuddering crash; her mother has suffered a severe stroke and will most likely never recover. What brings Natalie to her knees is the knowledge that if she had just answered her mother's plea for help putting Christmas decorations away, her mother wouldn't have had the stroke while alone and may have received treatment in time to recover. Natalie's guilt propels her into pushing away everyone she loves and focusing on nothing but her work. As a new Christmas approaches, she is filled with both dread and hope, can she have one more "perfect" Christmas with her family? Every character is so wrapped up in themselves that it will take a miracle to bring them back together. Johnson performs with precision an autopsy on this dying family, portraying to readers each wound and sadness. My one complaint with the book is that in the 49 weeks the book covers, Lissa, the teenage daughter, never ages beyond 13. If her birthday was in the three weeks not covered, it should have been referenced somewhere! That petty point aside, Johnson's novel has a powerful lesson for readers about learning to love and letting go of regret.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 13, 2013

    MY THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK This was one really awesome Christm

    MY THOUGHTS ON THIS BOOK




    This was one really awesome Christmas read! When Natalie Pearce chose not to go help her mom take down her Christmas decorations, she never dreamed what the year ahead held for she and her family. When her mom suffered a stroke that left her helpless, Natalie blamed herself for her mom’s condition. A string of events lead to Natalie leaving her husband and daughter, accepting a job that would require most of her time, and leaving her with strained relationships that may not be fixable.




    Most of the time we like to think that all is perfect at Christmas time, but it is usually not. Life situations just doesn’t look at our calendar first before they happen. It was heartbreaking, yet refreshing to read One Imperfect Christmas because it was sad to see Natalie and her family going through what they had to endure with her mom, yet it was comforting to know that everyone has difficult situations during the Christmas Season, some not as bad as others, but we all have our heartaches. But I really like how Myra Johnson weaves everything together, good and bad, and brings an ending to the story that will give you peace, and make you smile. Not an ending that the Pearce family wanted, but one that gave them hope. This is an amazing debut novel for Ms. Johnson, and yes it was written a few years ago, but the message is still the same. I can’t believe I haven’t read it before this year. I really want to encourage you to pick up a copy of One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson for a few hours for delightful entertainment. You will be glad you did!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 12, 2013

    I thought One Imperfect Christmas, by Myra Johnson, was interest

    I thought One Imperfect Christmas, by Myra Johnson, was interesting. This book is not a book I would have continued reading if I had not been reading it for a review. I do not like reading books where the characters dwell in their own misery and guilt for the entire book.

    This book could help a lot of people though, who are having a difficult time in their lives and are unable to cope with it. Natalie Pearce was unable to cope with her mother’s stroke. She blamed herself for it and shut everyone out, even her husband, Daniel. I understand that everyone may not feel the extreme guilt Natalie did, but many may. They may be able to use this book as a beginning point to help them recover.

    While this was not my type of book, I thought it was well written. You will have to decide for yourself if this is a good book or not.

    Disclosure of Material Connection- I received One Imperfect Christmas, by Myra Johnson, for free from Abingdon Press. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 12, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This was an interesting story; I can't imagine how hard it would

    This was an interesting story; I can't imagine how hard it would be to have a parent suffer a massive stroke, especially if you feel like you're to blame. However, I found myself very frustrated with Natalie and I also felt like parts were repetitious where Natalie kept blaming herself. It really shows how important forgiving yourself is and also loving your family and being there for them. I liked the different perspectives so we could understand the story from multiple angles. I thought this would be a lighter read, so just be aware that though this is a Christmas story, it deals with multiple emotional issues and is definitely more serious with a touch of hope.

    I received a free e-book of this book from Abingdon Press in exchange for an honest review.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 10, 2013

       One Imperfect Christmas is a five star book times 3. This





       One Imperfect Christmas is a five star book times 3. This book teaches that love is the perfect gift and that sometime having everything “Perfect” isn’t always the best.




    I wasn’t sure I was going to like this story, it started out being after Christmas and Natalie was not feeling the Christmas Spirit. Then she gets a call from her mother to help take down the Christmas decorations and Natalie tells her she is to busy to help! From then on the story captured me and I couldn’t put the book down till I had finished the last page.




    When Natalie gets a call to go to the hospital and finds out that her mother has had a stroke, she blames herself and then the troubles starts between her and her husband and their teenage daughter.




    While reading this novel I found myself  feeling the emotions of all the characters and I wanted to tell them, look at what you are doing to each other. This is a story filled with sorrow, hope and forgiveness and love. 




    There are tender moments as well as funny scenes. Lissa, the teenage daughter is quite the schemer.




    This book is about Christmas, a year later after the beginning of the story, which makes the title “One Imperfect Christmas” the right title for this book.




    I found myself having the same wish the family did for the “star” and hoping that Natalie’s parents could keep their promise to have fifty Christmases together!




    There are references to God and church attendance and you can tell this is Christian fiction but I believe anyone that has a family and has medical and financial problems and loves Christmas stories, they would love this story. “One Imperfect Christmas” leaves you feeling that even through you have troubles and every thing isn’t perfect, “It is a pretty good life”.




    I was given a free ebook copy of this book by Abingdon Press Fiction  for my honest review to be in the 2013 Christmas Blog Tour!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Belinda and Bram Morgan have been married for almost 50 years an

    Belinda and Bram Morgan have been married for almost 50 years and have set the example for all their children to follow in what makes love work in a marriage. They celebrate Christmas the same way now that their children have grown beginning with the celebration of Natalie's birthday and then trimming the tree. But for Natalie, those are high expectations to have even within your own home. She is far from the perfectionist her mother is and often procrastinates more than she should. That's why her husband Daniel asked her to take down the decorations before his own parents arrived later that afternoon. So when Natalie's mom called enlisting her help to take down their decorations she had the perfect excuse. Her mother wanted to help since Bram and their oldest son were on a trip leaving her alone to begin the task if she didn't want to wait.

    So when Natalie told her she couldn't help today due to the visit from Daniel's parents she told her mom to simply leave all the boxes in the guest room downstairs and she would over later this week to put them in storage for her. She often worried that her mom did too much now that she was older and suffering from the effects of arthritis. What Natalie didn't expect when she hung up with her mother, was to receive a phone call later that evening that would forever change her life. Her mother had suffered from a massive stroke and since she had been alone at the time, the damage was far too great for her mother to return to her former self.

    Now plagued with guilt for simply being glad that she didn't have to join her mother that afternoon and instead had a day for herself, Natalie pours herself into her free lance job trying to earn money she knows her father will need to pay for her mom's medical expenses. This drives a wedge between her and Daniel as he tries to fix things between them, and Natalie avoids dealing with their own marriage issues trying to make up for not being there for her mother. She feels if she had only been there, this would have never happened. Will Natalie find a way to restore her own marriage or will this be the first imperfect Christmas to rock her family?

    I received One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson compliments of Abingdon Press as part of the Christmas Blog Tour for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I absolutely LOVED this novel based in part to being able to relate to Natalie's character so much. Often times when the holidays are upon us, we feel like we are expected to do our best and meet all family obligations despite having to manage our own. I could relate to the guilt that Natalie felt upon hearing of her mother's stroke and understood the need to do everything to make amends to her what she felt was her mistake. The resolution that evidently comes is believable and everything doesn't come wrapped up in a pretty bow like you would expect. This is real in my opinion and thus why I would rate this a 5 out of 5 stars.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    Decent

    Free book, not bad. Kept me reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    Great read ~ Keeps your attention until the end

    This book was a great read, even not at Christmas time. It is based around a family and the values they have that keeps them together when it would have been really easy to all give up on one another. This book is very clean and anyone that loves a inspirational story ~ This is for you! I will definitely look for other books by this author, I hope she has more out there that reflect this writing style. I would definitely say this would be a book club discussion! Happy reading :-) !!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 27, 2012

     I think this is a well written illustration of love, forgivenes

     I think this is a well written illustration of love, forgiveness, family, and the hope of faith. Yes, the main character got irritating along the way but I can think of times in my own life that mirrored the attitude of the character in this book. So I can relate. It wasn't a very long book and therefore, did not cover all the issues. However, I disagree with the comment that it lacked an illustration of community support. The author showed the need and use of therapy, pastoral counsel, friendly support, family connections, and showing vulnerability to others.. This was a PERFECT read for this holiday season. It showed the spirit of 1 John 4: 18-20. So, thanks Myra for a well written, realistic Christian novel. And thanks B&N for a pleasantly surprising free Nook Book read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2012

    Annonymous

    THis book is about family relationships. Each member in this family was so busy doing their own thing that they were begining to go their separate ways. Daniel was busy with the team, Natalie was busy with her job. and the teenage daughter felt neglected. When illness struck a grandparent everything fell apart. I think the message in the story is to love and forgive. We dont know what will happen tomorrow, but we know who holds the future.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    Great book

    Loved this book! Such a great read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2012

    Imperfect Christmas

    Good story

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2012

    Good book

    Its a vet good boook

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2012

    LOVED IT

    Very good chick flick book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2012

    Long drawn abd horrible ending

    This was the first book I read on my nook since it was free. It took me well over a month to finish it bc I could never get into it. It's extremely slow moving, boring and the ending of the book was finished like the author couldn't think up of anything else to write, so just quit writing. I wouldn't read another book by this author. Thankfully, I didn't waste money on this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2012

    B

    A good read for Christmas.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 83 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)