Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini (Dutton 2015) offers parallel narratives of two people struggling with life’s challenges as the Christmas season approaches. Their stories are told in alternating chapters.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow suffers family tragedy and fear of more to come in 1863. But he manages to write a poem titled “Christmas Bells”.
The modern day character, Sophia, learns she will lose her teaching position. She worries not only for herself but for the underprivileged children in the church choir she directs. Longfellow’s poem, set to music, becomes the connecting link between two lives lived in different centuries.
Chiaverini’s previous works – Mrs. Grant and Madame Jule, Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival, The Spymistress, and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker – also bring to life real and fictional characters in interesting circumstances.