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Posted June 5, 2014
Reviewed by Michael McManus for Readers' Favorite
Chris Ballentine, a troubled youth, has recently lost his beloved grandfather, a dear old man who had lived with Chris and his family for four years, long enough to create a bond and traditions that too suddenly ceased to be. With Christmas approaching, the boy feels completely abandoned. His parents have tried to communicate with him to get him out of his funk, but even their best efforts have failed. Not knowing where he is headed, but not wanting to go home or sled riding with his friends, he walks the snow-covered train tracks that lead north of town to the Cresson Trestle, a one hundred and eighty foot span of nothing but ties and rails. When he reaches the middle of the trestle, he sits down on a rail and loses himself in thoughts of Grandpa. A bum spots the kid on the trestle and tries to warn him that a train is coming. Too late, Chris becomes aware of the man and the train. He tries to race the train to the end of the span but doesn’t make it. He is forced off the tracks and falls five stories to the stream at the bottom of the valley. Fortunately, the bum and two of his friends save Chris from the icy waters of the stream, but Chris is badly bruised and unconscious. With a ferocious snow storm approaching, it will take a miracle to save the boy’s life.
The title of Dr. Bruce Bracken’s book, The Hollidaysburg Christmas Miracle, strongly suggests that there could be a happy ending to this story. What it does not predict is how involved you will get with the lives of Chris and the three men who saved him. Dr. Bracken has done a marvelous job of developing the histories of Leo, Tex and Hank. You will carry the memories of these men past the end of your reading. I recommend this book to anyone who likes stories about heroism and generosity.