The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 15th November 2018
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 528
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Eve Glace – co-owner of Winterworld – is pregnant. This sends the whole of the theme park into baby mania, especially as the baby’s due date is 25th December. But their joy is soured by the fact it appears someone is trying to sabotage the Christmas celebrations.
Annie Pandoro and her husband Joe own a small Christmas cracker factory, are well set up and happy together despite life never blessing them with a much-wanted child. Now, Annie thinks she is going through the menopause and any vestige of hope has been extinguished.
Palma Collins has agreed to act as a surrogate, hoping the money will give her a helping hand out of the gutter in which she finds herself. But when the couple split up just after she finds out she is pregnant, she is left carrying a baby she never wanted in the first place.
Annie, Palma and Eve all meet at the ‘Pudding Club’, a new directive started by a forward-thinking young doctor, who was Palma’s first love at school. Though their lives have gone in very different directions, will this group help each other to find happiness and peace as Christmas approaches?
“The Mother of all Christmases” by Milly Johnson – when you read this book you’ll appreciate how adequate this title is! – follows stories of three very different women, Palma, Eve and Annie. Palma is the one from the wrong side of the town and with a painful past and finds herself in a very difficult situation. Because of her financial troubles she agrees to become a surrogate for a couple who can’t have children. Eve and her husband Jacques run the Christmas themed Winterworld park and are up to their noses with organizing things. Eve knows her husband want a baby with his all heart and well, she doesn’t say no as well, but there is never the right moment for a baby, right? And Annie and her husband Joe, who run a cracker company have been desperate for a baby all their life but it just never happened. There were failed IVFs, a failed adoption and well, they came to terms with the fact that it’s only the two of them. Until it turns out that it’s not the menopause Annie thinks it is.
The three women meet at the Christmas Pudding Club, a club for pregnant women, and they hit it off immediately – their friendship start and they go together through happy and hard times, and there are going to be plenty of those for them.
I don’t know how Milly Johnson does it but each and every book of hers is simply brilliant – she for sure keeps her standard high, and “The Mother of all Christmases” is another cracker (pun intended) from this author. This book was so full of surprising moments, there were twists that I haven’t seen coming and that broke my heart more than once, but then mended it again. It made me cry ugly tears and it made me laugh out loud. It was clever, poignant, uplifting and simply beautiful.
What I found so brilliant and clever was the fact that we already know some of the characters in the book, and not only this, but also The Daily Trumpet, with all its hilarious spelling errors is back. Eve and Winterworld we’ve got to know in “A Winter’s Flame”, as well as some other characters and places from Milly’s previous books and it was so nice to be back with them, to see what’s happened to them and how they’re doing.
However, no worries, it is absolutely a stand – alone novel! But it’ll only make you wish you had read the other books as well, so be prepared, and maybe have the books on pre – order already, if not at your side already.
There are relatively many characters being introduced to us in this book but I coped! Actually, very easily. I had no problems to quickly get who is who, why and to whom they belong. All the characters tell their own, beautiful, sometimes very poignant, stories. The female leading characters Palma, Annie and Eve, even though they don’t know each other yet, have one thing in common – they’re all find themselves pregnant. It took some time for all of them to realize that they’re pregnant, especially in Eve’s case, and yes, she made me feel desperate at the fact that she didn’t notice/didn’t want to notice things that were obvious but well, she had her reasons. All the pregnancies were different – one that might be considered a controversial one, then a very unexpected one, and one simply a nice surprise. I loved all of the three characters though, probably not surprisingly, my heart went to Palma. Her story was so heart – breaking and it will probably stay with me for a very long time yet.
And I must mention one of the male characters – Tom. Guys, he was Mr. Perfect. Milly Johnson has so brilliantly captured the essence of him and has made him, a boxer, so human and so vulnerable, and the things he said to Palma… well, if somebody told me such things I’d print them, put them in frames and hang them on the wall.
The thing with Milly Johnson is that, even if it’s crystal clear that she herself loves her own characters, she gives them all her whole heart and soul, and she makes their lives happy and lets them look optimistically into their futures – then bang, and something happens. Something unexpected, something that turns their worlds upside down. There is actually a tension detectable through the pages, I personally couldn’t shake off the feeling that something bad is going to happen, and I kept everything crossed that it won’t happen. It doesn’t happen often that I’m so deeply involved in the characters and their lives, but in this book I actually lived and experienced things together with them, I fell for them and I couldn’t bear the thought that something could go wrong for them.
“The Mother of all Christmases” deals with many issues, some of them lighter, some heavier, and with Milly Johnson’s writing that is full of heart you’ll find yourself laughing, crying, smiling and laughing again. It is truly Milly Johnson at her best. She deals with the stuff that life throws at her characters in such a down – to – earth, casual way, she’s not afraid of throwing many challenges at her characters, of making their lives complicated and difficult. It is so well written, so full of events and there is not a single flat moment, the story is just flowing and you together with it. It was a story about friendship, sisterhood, loss, love, grief, relationships, second chances and many other things, beautifully and seamlessly binding all the threads and events together. It didn’t feel too overloaded, the pace was perfect and you’ll quickly find yourself engaged in the characters’ lives. Highly recommended!
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