The prequel to Evans's mega bestseller, The Christmas Box, is longer than the earlier book, has its same cartoony thinness, is just as creaky at the jointsand reveals, if anything, a considerable rise in the tears-per-page ratio.
We go back to Salt Lake City, this time to 1908, when David Parkinthoughtful and sensitive person, millionaire head of Parkin Machinery Co., and collector of clockshires as his secretary one MaryAnne Chandler, the young woman (originally from England) destined to become David's wife, to live in his big mansion, and, in time, to become the benevolent, devout, mysteriously wise widow of The Christmas Box. How MaryAnne achieved such wisdom (quick answer: through suffering a lot) is the real subject of this book, and Evans out-Dickenses Dickens in his facile uses of melodrama in getting to his desired end. In Evans's world of tears and truth, people are by and large either all good or all bad, and if MaryAnne's perfections include being attractive, spunky, quick, principled, courageous, loving, and morally unwavering, the qualities of the base and degenerate villains who reduce her life to ashes are her perfect opposites not in some but all ways ("The men entered clumsily, growling in foul and guttural tones, drunk with whiskey and hatred"). In the beginning, there will be marriage, birth, and immeasurable happiness; and then, with purest villainy as its catalyst, there will be profound and equally immeasurable sorrow. But the healing spirit of human love and hope and goodness will not be destroyed entirely, living on in the muted but unquenchable goodness of MaryAnne's heart; in Evans's perfectly choreographed little flurry of symbols at the close; and even in the transformation of one of those pure villains into purely sensitive penitent.
Certain handkerchief heaven for many, while others may experience the stirring ofwell, let's just say other feelings.