Novella Review & Giveaway: Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past
Published By: Abingdon Press
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Page Count: 158
Source: Kindly Provided by Publisher
Audience: Adult - Appalachian Fiction

Appalachia is a region that will always have my heart. Sharyn McCrumb is a master story teller who brings the mountains to life like no other. She uses folklore and legends to showcase the people and culture of the southern portion of the mountain chain. The majority of her stories are set in North Carolina or Tennessee. I was excited to see how McCrumb would blend together her traditional writing with elements of the holiday season. Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past is a beautiful little gem that includes McCrumb's traditional Appalachian flair, but also includes mystical elements.

There are two major strands to this novella. The first focuses on a local sheriff and one of his officers as they make their way to arrest a man on Christmas Eve. The man in question has a warrant on him for running into the car of the wife of one of Tennessee's senators. The two law enforcement members intend to make the arrest quickly and then enjoy the Christmas Eve festivities. They find that plans don't always work out when a snowstorm is on the horizon and an elderly man had plans of his own. I liked this portion of the story, but I preferred the other story strand. This one felt tedious at times, but eventually I found the beauty of this story when everything comes together in the end.

The second strand focuses on Nora Bonesteel. Nora's family has lived in the mountains of eastern Tennessee for generations and is known throughout the area for having special gifts. Nora often gets visions about people in the town. She knows when someone is going to pass away and when sadness will come calling. Nora has learned to keep her mouth shut about what she sees since she knows she cannot alter the visions. In addition to the visions, Nora also has the ability to see and converse with ghosts. If any region in the United States would have restless souls, it is Appalachia. Life in the mountains was often cruel and not everyone experienced a happily ever after. I loved this segment of the novella.

One of the best things about this novella is the amount of history McCrumb is able to work into it. I loved learning more about the holiday traditions of the mountains. Many of them were new to me. There were some of the cultural pieces that reminded me of my grandmother and my mountain family. It was nice to take a trip back to my childhood memories when those moments cropped up.

Reading this holiday treat reminded me that I need to read all of the novels in McCrumb's Ballad series.

One Last Gripe: If there was a connection between the two story strands, it was lost on me.

Favorite Things About This Book: The history and the strong sense of place

First Sentence: "Well, it just doesn't seem right, that's all."

Favorite Character: Nora

Least Favorite Character: I didn't have one.

When someone buys the old Honeycutt house, Nora Bonesteel is glad to see some life brought back to the old mansion, even if it is by summer people. But when they decide to stay through Christmas, they find more than old memories in the walls. On Christmas Eve, Sheriff Spencer Arrowwood and Deputy Joe LeDonne find themselves on an unwelcome call to arrest an elderly man for a minor offense. As they attempt to do their duty, while doing the right thing for a neighbor, it begins to look like they may all spend Christmas away from home. In a story of spirits, memories, and angels unaware, Sharyn McCrumb revisits her most loved characters who know there is more to this world than the eye can see, especially at Christmastime.

We have one extra copy of Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past to give to one of our lucky readers. This giveaway is open to residents of the US. You must be 18+ years of age to win. 

The giveaway runs from December 15-22. Winner will be notified via email on December 23.


  1. I agree that McCrumb is a wonderful writer, and I am really glad that you enjoyed this novella so much! My mother is probably the biggest Sharyn McCrumb fan in the world, and I would love to get this for her for Christmas!


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