Title: Broken Christmas
Author: David S. Henderson
Genre: Short Story
A collection of three short Christmas-themed stories. In “The Fourth Wish,” a homeless man accidentally ends up playing Santa to three lonely boarding school boys. In “The Best Christmas Ever,” an optimistic eight-year-old sees one holiday in a vastly different light than the rest of his family. And in the title story, “Broken Christmas,” a WWII soldier copes with Christmas in the trenches by dreaming of his family and his girlfriend back home.
I haven’t read a good Christmas book since Cornelia Funke’s When Santa Fell to Earth (which I happened to read in February). So when this offer landed in my inbox just in time, I decided a Christmasy read would hit the spot.
“The Fourth Wish” was my favorite of the three stories. The homeless man was a lot like most of the homeless men I know – really a great guy, just made some bad choices. His journey to make the three boys’ Christmas wishes come true was…well, heartwarming is a cliche, but the whole story is full of hope and redemption and Christmas joy.
I liked “The Best Christmas Ever” mostly because Jimmy (the little boy) was clueless. It was a mix of sad and happy as all the bad parts of Jimmy’s family come to light, but Jimmy only sees the fun in it and has the “best Christmas ever.” It was part holiday magic and part naivety, but I loved Jimmy precisely because he couldn’t see what was going on.
“Broken Christmas” was, I think, the hardest to swallow. Like “The Best Christmas Ever,” it was a mix of sad and happy, but so much more sad. I just felt so, so bad for PFC Perry Reynolds. The whole story seemed morose, with an ending I found to be a complete downer – not unfitting, mind you, but a downer. The title fits very well. This feels like a small taste of how hard Christmas must be for soldiers.
At the end of Broken Christmas is a Secret Santa Cypher Message. If you email the message to firstname.lastname@example.org, David Henderson will email you a fourth bonus story, “Gumshoe Santa,” about a grizzled old private eye wrapping up a bad case on Christmas Eve.
“Gumshoe Santa” was fun. It got a little bogged down with backstory occasionally, but overall, it was an enjoyable private eye Christmas story. I liked Oscar and how much he loved being a PI. I even liked the super-minor characters like his Indian tech support guy. (Well, I take that back. I didn’t like his client.) I’m even a huge fan of the ending, which turned out completely fabulous with a touch of Christmas spirit.
Overall, I enjoyed these stories. They weren’t as lighthearted as I expected – but with a title like Broken Christmas, I may have been expecting too much. Most were sad, but all were enjoyable, and I loved the Christmas spirit infused through almost every page. Overall, a delightful read.
And if you end up reading Broken Christmas, I highly recommend emailing for “Gumshoe Santa,” as well.
I received free review copies of Broken Christmas and Gumshoe Santa from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.