Gifts Visible & Invisible

Genre

Young Adult, Fantasy, Middlegrade, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Stories

Audience

13 and Up

Author’s Worldview

Catholic

Year Published

2019

Themes

Keeping Christ in Christmas, Christmas, Family, Motherhood, Fatherhood, Growing Up, Parents and Children, Responsibility, Charity, Generosity, Compassion, Saints

 

Reviewed by

A.R.K. Watson

I had never participated in Christmas in July before reading this book, and I was surprised how effectively this collection of short stories left me feeling cozy and cheerful in the midst of the hot and humid monsoon season of my region.

Though the settings and genres of these stories vary wildly, they are appropriate for teens and young adults, but honestly, I think readers of any age will find something to love in this collection. The settings vary from the contemporary and slice-of-life to a dark 1984ish dystopian Christmas, a 1920s American Christmas, and even an alternate history involving Christmas on a dinosaur farm, all written by some of the Catholic Writers Guild’s most talented members. If you’ve been living under a rock, or are just discovering some of the Church’s hidden talent, this collection will make for a good introduction. Each story ends with a footnote about each author and their greater body of work.

Full disclosure—this is a collection of Christmas stories, so there is a healthy amount of cheese and camp present, but then some of that is welcome if you are in the mood for yuletide fun.  The amount of said cheese varies from story to story, so it’s unlikely that a reader will enjoy ALL of these, but that isn’t the point of a collection like this. The point is to provide a wide selection of stories so that you can find something that fits your particular tastes and discover a new favorite author. If you find yourself reading one of the stories and not liking it, just skip to the next one and don’t sweat it.

My personal favorite was Corinna Turner’s story, set on Christmas Eve on a dinosaur-infested land. It’s actually two parallel stories. One of them follows a girl name Darryl on a mission to rescue the visiting priest from a raptor attack. The other follows a boy named Joshua, whose Christmas Eve traditions get interrupted by a Mama Allosaur. Fans of Jurassic Park will definitely love this fun story. The action-packed dino hunt surprised me with some very real emotional depth, as Joshua’s encounter with the mother Allosaur fills him with as much hope as it does terror. Abandoned by his own mother, seeing how hard this scary mama dinosaur fights for her babies. The experience fills him- and the reader- with a surprising amount of Christmas spirit.

Another of my top favorites was T. M. Gaouette’s “Just Jesus.” It had a pithy “Keep Christ in Christmas” message but delivered in a way that left me feeling genuinely contrite and humbled. Carolyn Astfalk’s story of a family struggling to celebrate Christmas while dealing with loud toddlers, a messy home, and a father’s stressful job was also quite beautiful. If you are looking for a cozy quick read, this collection is a solid answer.

Relic of His Heart by Jane Lebak

An atheist midwife has no idea what she’s in for when she makes a deal with an angel.

Bonvida’s Awakening, by C.D. Smith

Can Atticus live up to the legacy of his birthright? An adventure fantasy novel for teens about good and evil, friendship, and identity.

The Light of Christmas Morning by Susan Joy Bellavance, Illustrated by Anne Kissanne Engelhart

A cozy Christmas bed time story that puts Catholic traditions front and center

 

Sister Aloysius Comes to Mercyville By Linda Etchison, Illustrated by Denise Plumlee-Tadlock

A young nun teaches children how to offer up their daily irritations to God.

In Pieces by Rhonda Ortiz

Is a marriage without love the only way to save Molly Chase’s reputation?

Gevaudan Project

This fun monster story takes themes of God, man, and environmentalism to places deeper than any newsroom can go.

On Heaven’s Doorstep by Andrea Jo Rodgers

When you’re on the front lines of life and death, it’s hard to avoid seeing real miracles.

Coven (Book 7 of St. Tommy Series): By Declan Finn

St. Tommy fights the CPS and a group of pagans who have taken over a military base.

How the Dragon Awards Could Uplift Catholic Fiction

If you don’t like current state of mainstream publishing and wish there were more widely available alternatives, this is your chance to help make that a reality.

Best of 2019

Comic Books, Classic Literature and newly converted Catholic authors– 2019 brought some excellent changes to the literary tradition of our faith.

Navigating Deep Waters: Meditations for Caregivers Jeannie Ewing and Eileen Benthal

If you’re a care-giver for a chronically sick family member or friend, this book is for you and your healing.

Three Reformers: Luther, Descartes, Rousseau by Jacques Maritain

Reaching back to a forgotten era of integrated Christian philosophy, Maritain retrieves concepts that could solve the dissolution of postmodern society.

Finnian and the Seven Mountains (Vol. 1) by Philip Koslowski, Michael Lavoy, and Jim Fern

Join Finnian as his quest for a legendary sword takes him to the monks of Skellig Michael, a real life inspiration for the Jedi temple.

My Son, The Father by Jim Moore

The story of a young priest through the eyes of his father and friends.

North Pacific: A Story of Life, Love, Suffering, and Grace by Michael Steffan

Joseph & Miku’s love was already illegal. Then WWII began. Now home, disabled, and questioning God’s love, he still searches for her.

The Haunted Cathedral by Antony Barone Kolenc                           

Xan is finally bringing his parent’s killer to justice, yet his guardian monk insists he must forgive the murderer

In the Footsteps of St. Therese: How to Be Single but Not Alone by Teresita Ogg

A Filipino woman recounts her lifelong journey in a single vocation, with Saint Therese guiding the way.

Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight by G.M. Baker

Dark psychological fairy tale in which the heroine slays her enchanter only to become possessed by his spirit

The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom by Gerald L. Schroeder

Essential reading for anyone involved in the debate between religion and science.

Saving Cinderella: What Feminists Get Wrong About Disney Princesses And How To Set It Right by Faith Moore

Love the Disney movies you grew up with but don’t know how to defend them in the face of the modern critics? This book is for you.