Christmas in Shades of Gray, by Tina Pinson (Desert Breeze Publishing, 2013)
We meet David Pareman as a terminally ill man in hospital, bitter and alone. There’s something about his voice, though, that appeals. I bought the novel after reading the opening online. Listen to how he describes himself:
It’s Christmas time, but I’m not feeling altogether festive. Given the strands of tubing attached to me and all the off sounding carols played by the machines keeping track of my body rhythms, and the packages of blood and saline tied up neatly on stands, I could be the Christmas tree… I am a Christmas tree. A Charlie Brown special—weak and spindly. [Kindle locations 83 and 203]
Chemotherapy is poisoning David, and the morphine makes him hallucinate. Still, his mysterious visitor, Arion, seems like more than a figment of the medication. In Christmas Carol style, Arion whisks David out of the hospital bed and into scenes from his past: unflattering scenes that reveal David at his worst.
Tina Pinson is wise to introduce us to David in a way that builds sympathy, because he is not a likeable man. He has ruined many lives, and parts of his story are hard to read. He finds them hard to watch, here at the end of his life.
The search for something—anything—redeeming in David’s and his children’s lives brings only despair. Reading, I assumed that Arion’s insistence on a reason why God should answer David’s prayer for his children was to bring David to realize he can’t earn favour and needs to ask for grace.
Christmas in Shades of Gray is a satisfying tale. The ending is hopeful yet realistic, and there’s a twist I didn’t see coming. If David’s sordid life tempts you to stop reading, push through to the end. It’s worth it.
Tina Pinson’s website says that she “started writing in elementary school. (it was that or get in trouble for lying).” She’s the author of the Shadows (American Civil War) series plus 5 other novels including Christmas in Shades of Gray.
[Review copy from my personal library.]