Miracle on Christmas Street by Annie O'Neil #BookReview


Behind every door is a festive wish…

When Jess Green arrives at her new home on Christmas Street, she quickly realises that this will be a December to remember! After the disaster of last year, she was hoping to curl up and avoid the festivities – but her new neighbours have other ideas…

Together, they’re creating something extraordinary: a real-life advent calendar. As each house opens its door for wreath-making, gingerbread icing or carol singing, Jess finds herself swept up in the holiday cheer. Every house, that is, except for No. 24, home to the cantakerous Mr Winters.

But when disaster strikes, can Jess pull off a festive miracle – and make her own Christmas wish come true?

 Although I tend to read mostly dark crime fiction and thrillers, I do enjoy a change of genre now and again. At this time of year I'm a sucker for a cosy Hallmark movie and likewise, always find myself drawn to heartwarming festive reads, so Miracle on Christmas Street was exactly what I was in the mood for.
At the start of the book, Jess Green is caught up in the usual pre-Christmas madness as she battles another Black Friday shopper for a tacky wreath. Though quite a humorous scene - I loved the desperate hyperbole from both women trying to explain why they deserved the wreath - it soon becomes clear that the trappings of life as a top prep-school teacher are exactly that - and Jess needs more from her life.
A year later finds Jess waiting to start a new job in a primary school after the holidays and headed for her new home in the invitingly named Christmas Street. After a beginning which doesn't really show her at her best, I quickly warmed to Jess who is clearly a bit of a dreamer. She is also evidently suffering from a loss of confidence due to something happening at the prep-school which she mysteriously thinks of as 'the Cheese Sandwich Incident'. As she arrives in her new road, however, her moving-in plans are sent into disarray and as she is introduced to some of her new neighbours, she discovers the residents of Christmas Street have something special planned -  and she is expected to contribute.
As the story progresses, we meet more of the neighbours along with Jess but there are some who make a particularly strong impression almost immediately. The first house in the street belongs to an Australian woman, Drea and she is the enthusiastic organiser BEHIND the living advent calendar taking place in Christmas Street. Every evening, each house will lay on a seasonal event on the day of the month which coincides with the number on their front door. Jess is number fourteen so has a little while to plan something but it's fair to say that she has a frustrating tendency to put off anything she is reluctant to face head on and also can't help but involve herself in other people's problems.
I'm aware that it would be easy to imagine Jess could be an annoying character but actually the opposite is true and there is a good reason why she has become so insecure. Despite having been badly let down, she has retained the ability to see the best in people and although her plans sometimes go a little awry or she accidentally reveals more than she intends to in her emails, she is actually rather endearing.
Rather fortuitously there are twenty-four houses in Christmas Street but the last house is owned by a cantankerous older man, Mr Winters. A mail mix-up means Jess learns something about his life that he has kept secret for many years,  and even in the face of his apparent belligerence, she takes the time to try to figure out how she can help him join in with the street's festivities. His story is heartbreaking but he isn't the only resident who has experienced difficult times and although this is mostly a joyful read, there was a shared moment between two characters that brought a tear to my eye. Even Drea is more vulnerable than she first appears and Jess realises that she needs to create a sense of community for another reason beyond missing the open friendliness of life back in Australia.
I don't want to give too much away about the living advent calendar reveals, other than to say this is a book which evokes everything that makes Christmas such a wonderful time of year - baking, decorating, singing...I could almost smell the pine leaves and cinnamon and taste the hot chocolate!  More than that, however, it's a delightful feel-good reminder that for most of us, it's being surrounded by friends or family and feeling part of a community that really matters. Sentimental, romantic and utterly charming, I finished Miracle on Christmas Street with a huge, soppy smile on my face - and with a craving for a large hot chocolate of my own! 

Miracle on Christmas Street is published by Orion Books, purchasing links can be found here but please support independent bookstores whenever possible by either buying directly from them or through Bookshop.org

About the Author

Annie spent most of her childhood with a leg draped over the family rocking chair and a book in her hand. Novels, baking, movies and writing too much teenage angst poetry ate up most of her youth. Now, quite a few years on from those fevered daydreams of being a poet, Annie splits her time between corralling her husband (and real life Scottish hero) into helping her with their cows or scratching the backs of their rare breed pigs and spending some very happy hours at her computer writing.