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A Town Divided by Christmas

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It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town's Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town's Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be some things that people just don't need to know.


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It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town's Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town's Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be some things that people just don't need to know.

30 review for A Town Divided by Christmas

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽

    The scientific method collides with southern small town culture and a local mystery in this charming and insightful novella. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature: Two post-doc academics ― Dr. Delilah (Spunky) Spunk, an economist, and Dr. Elyon Dewey, a geneticist ― are sent to Good Shepherd, North Carolina to do a genetic and sociological study. The hope is that by studying a relatively genetically isolated population, they can prove or disprove the theory that certain people carry a “homebo The scientific method collides with southern small town culture and a local mystery in this charming and insightful novella. Review first posted on Fantasy Literature: Two post-doc academics ― Dr. Delilah (Spunky) Spunk, an economist, and Dr. Elyon Dewey, a geneticist ― are sent to Good Shepherd, North Carolina to do a genetic and sociological study. The hope is that by studying a relatively genetically isolated population, they can prove or disprove the theory that certain people carry a “homebody marker": a genetic tendency to remain in their native community or return to it. Spunky, the more personable of the two, is charged with interviewing the townspeople and convincing them to give genetic samples; Elyon (“that most tragic of personality types: The relentless extrovert with zero social skills”) is to do the genome analysis of the samples. When Spunky and Elyon arrive in Good Shepherd, one of the first things they notice is two big churches facing each other across the town square, with nearly identical names: First Episcopal Church of the Nativity and First Episcopal Nativity Church. The local alderman, Eggie Loft, explains to Spunky that there’s a fifty-year division between the Episcopalians, so deep that none will cross from one church to the other. Each church puts on the Nativity pageant at exactly the same time, with identical scripts. If anyone still alive knows the underlying reason for the religious duel, they’re not saying, but apparently it had something to do with which baby was chosen to play the Baby Jesus in the Nativity pageant eighty-seven years ago. Elyon’s abrasiveness is so off-putting to Spunky that she avoids his company as much as possible, choosing to spend time with the townspeople instead ― especially Eggie Loft. Eggie is intelligent and has a great sense of humor, but his deep ties to Good Shepherd make it difficult for Spunky to see any future in a relationship with him. Meanwhile, Elyon has hired a local girl, Jozette, to cook and clean for him. Despite her lack of any college education or understanding of any part of Elyon’s work, the two grow closer … though Spunky wonders if it’s mostly because Jozette wear low-cut tops and bends over in front of Elyon every time she has a chance. The plot of A Town Divided by Christmas is fairly slight and meanders in a way that distinctly reminded me of laid-back, small-town vibes. The witty banter and humorous commentary make the leisurely journey a delight, though.“I just remembered,” said Eggie, “that the food here isn’t very good.” “It’s as good as whatever Elyon is having for dinner in his apartment, with less cleavage.”A Town Divided by Christmas also has something deeper to say about the many things that can divide people: science vs. religion, urban vs. rural, education vs. common sense, and so on. The religious Christmas pageant duel is symbolic of the divisions between people. But Card is also exploring the ways that people can bridge the divide. Even the dueling Christmas pageants, it turns out, have a certain harmony. A Town Divided by Christmas (originally passed out by the Cards in 2017 as a Christmas gift) has a timely message for our world, where so much focus is given to the things that divide us. It’s not science fiction or fantasy, but it is an entertaining and humorous mix of scientific methods and romance and interpersonal relationships generally.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Whispering Stories

    Book Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.com Doctor Delilah Spunk, known as Spunky, an economist, and Doctor Elyon Dewey, a geneticist are sent by their professor to a small town in North Carolina called Good Shepherd to do some testing on the folk who live there. They are sent there because people grown up, work and die in Good Shepherd, rarely anyone moves away. They are to get the DNA of all 10,000 residents and for them to answer a few questions about their lifestyle to see if a ‘home Book Reviewed by Stacey on www.whisperingstories.com Doctor Delilah Spunk, known as Spunky, an economist, and Doctor Elyon Dewey, a geneticist are sent by their professor to a small town in North Carolina called Good Shepherd to do some testing on the folk who live there. They are sent there because people grown up, work and die in Good Shepherd, rarely anyone moves away. They are to get the DNA of all 10,000 residents and for them to answer a few questions about their lifestyle to see if a ‘homebody marker’ is present in their DNA. The town is a strange place split into two after a falling out about which child should play the baby Jesus in the Christmas Nativity eight decades ago. It was always the child born closest to Christmas that got to play the part but two boys were born days apart and the youngest was ill, so the older child go was chosen. This split the congregation and now there are two churches with the same name and half the folk go to one and half to the other. The book is very strange and I had mixed feelings about it. There was a lot going on, for me, too much for a 144-page book. The two doctors despised one another, well Spunky despised Dr. Dewey, whilst he thought he was God’s gift to all women and wasn’t impressed that Spunky didn’t like him. Spunky had her eye on another person – One of the residents. The story was interesting but not being particularly into science, nor religious, I think it was a little lost on me. The characters worked well and the plot was intriguing I just don’t think it was a book that I full managed to get my teeth into and enjoy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Summers-Stay

    My wife got this book as a Christmas gift from the Cards. It's a romantic comedy, of sorts, about a sociologist who goes to study why people stay in a small town. She ends up falling in love with the small town and one of its inhabitants. The dialogue was fun. A point of irritation was the characterization of modern science as hopelessly biased, full of internal politics, and basically worthless. There may be subfields like that (and sociology probably harbors some of them) but in my experience My wife got this book as a Christmas gift from the Cards. It's a romantic comedy, of sorts, about a sociologist who goes to study why people stay in a small town. She ends up falling in love with the small town and one of its inhabitants. The dialogue was fun. A point of irritation was the characterization of modern science as hopelessly biased, full of internal politics, and basically worthless. There may be subfields like that (and sociology probably harbors some of them) but in my experience scientists are almost unique in the way their desire to get it right outweighs almost any other consideration. Of course bias and desire for publications and citations creeps in, but you often see scientists changing their mind when new contradictory data is collected. Do you see that in a book club, a company, a trade union, a political party, an artistic movement, or a religion? Who uses statistics to quantify their uncertainty at all? Who has "replication crises" where they go back to reexamine their conclusions at all? There's a reason that science moves forward over time and enables new technologies, and that wouldn't happen if it were all a shadowy cabal intent on retaining power.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Cute Christmas read, and not at all what I expected from Orson Scott Card.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Shalini

    This was quite a different read, which tried to amalgamate science with religion. Dr Delilah Spunk (Spunky) and geneticist Dr Elyon Dewey were sent to the town of Good Shepherd for a study to find out if certain people carry the 'homebody' gene, where they live in one place all their lives from birth to death. Spunky being friendlier moved well with the townsmen and Elyon with local girl Jozette. My first book by author Orson Scott Card, the story wandered down the lanes of the Good Shepherd Town This was quite a different read, which tried to amalgamate science with religion. Dr Delilah Spunk (Spunky) and geneticist Dr Elyon Dewey were sent to the town of Good Shepherd for a study to find out if certain people carry the 'homebody' gene, where they live in one place all their lives from birth to death. Spunky being friendlier moved well with the townsmen and Elyon with local girl Jozette. My first book by author Orson Scott Card, the story wandered down the lanes of the Good Shepherd Town, which was split into two sections based on a feud nearly 90 years ago, including its churches. Eggie was the most interesting amongst the townsmen, soon liked by Spunky. The main characters were like cacti, didn't seem to like each other. The dialogues were quirky, the romances cute. The whole book gave off a small town vibe, it was more of a short Christmasy story about the divisions amongst people over unnecessary issues. An enjoyable read which left me thinking quite a bit.

  6. 5 out of 5

    David Read

    A very clever, very enjoyable Christmas story Utterly likeable quirky characters. A clever story with a bit of a surprise twist at the end. Even a romance that's real romance, not body parts and heavy breathing. A little peek into Southern culture without condescension or sneering. Oh, and comedy. Card does comedy so seldom it's always a bit of a surprise, but there a few chuckles in this tale. If I had a carp it'd be that the characters' repartee was SO witty that I'd be afraid to open my mouth a A very clever, very enjoyable Christmas story Utterly likeable quirky characters. A clever story with a bit of a surprise twist at the end. Even a romance that's real romance, not body parts and heavy breathing. A little peek into Southern culture without condescension or sneering. Oh, and comedy. Card does comedy so seldom it's always a bit of a surprise, but there a few chuckles in this tale. If I had a carp it'd be that the characters' repartee was SO witty that I'd be afraid to open my mouth around any of them lest I be instantly judged a dullard. But that's true of pretty much all of Card's books, so it didn't spoil my enjoyment. I'm going to read this every Christmas from henceforth, along with A Christmas Carol. Well done Orson.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I have read better by this author. It's not bad, just kind of average. The whole "Hallmark Christmas movie" joke would have been better if it didn't end up going that way I think. Or if it went that way without that joke being made. It was a little too obvious for my tastes. Not bad, but not absolutely smashing either. 3, slightly disappointed, stars. I have read better by this author. It's not bad, just kind of average. The whole "Hallmark Christmas movie" joke would have been better if it didn't end up going that way I think. Or if it went that way without that joke being made. It was a little too obvious for my tastes. Not bad, but not absolutely smashing either. 3, slightly disappointed, stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    DeeAnn

    Strange little book. Not at all what I gathered it would be about after reading the flyleaf. We read it out loud as a family and had some laughs.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tori

    Reading challenge included a Christmas book, so in an effort to avoid sappy holiday books, I chose one by a famed Sci-Fi author. UGH. I feel like Card wrote this hoping it would get picked up by the Hallmark Channel. So cheesy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    BJ Haun

    I'll admit that my curiosity got the better of me on this one, but really how could I resist what was being called "a Hallmark Christmas movie written by the author of Ender's Game?" Card does Hallmark? A...dare I say it...Hallmark Card story? Okay, okay, I'll stop. Turns out, that is exactly what this books...except a bit better. I will admit that I probably haven't sat through an entire Hallmark movie, but I managed to burn through this little book in about a day. The book pokes fun at itself by n I'll admit that my curiosity got the better of me on this one, but really how could I resist what was being called "a Hallmark Christmas movie written by the author of Ender's Game?" Card does Hallmark? A...dare I say it...Hallmark Card story? Okay, okay, I'll stop. Turns out, that is exactly what this books...except a bit better. I will admit that I probably haven't sat through an entire Hallmark movie, but I managed to burn through this little book in about a day. The book pokes fun at itself by not being shy about its Hallmarky inspirations, but manages to tell a cute little rom-com story without being too maudlin or cheesy. I don't think I rolled my eyes even once. My main complaint is that the story didn't feel all that...for lack of a better term..."Christmasy" to me but that's probably my own personal tastes coming through (I'd rather listen to "White Christmas" a hundred times in a row than hear "Last Christmas" even once). All told "A Town Divided by Christmas" is an interesting little thing. I suppose I enjoyed my time with it, but I don't think it's going to enter my "Christmas Book" rotation.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    This is a novella by Card that looks at a town with two feuding Christmas pageants. That is really just the backdrop for a story that looks at the contrasts between a PhD student studying the town history and a local resident. The book is a bit on the nose, but overall I enjoyed it. Card is one of the few SciFi/Fantasy authors that will portray religion or small town values in any positive light. I really appreciated that about the story. So it was fine, a nice quick read, but nothing I'd go out This is a novella by Card that looks at a town with two feuding Christmas pageants. That is really just the backdrop for a story that looks at the contrasts between a PhD student studying the town history and a local resident. The book is a bit on the nose, but overall I enjoyed it. Card is one of the few SciFi/Fantasy authors that will portray religion or small town values in any positive light. I really appreciated that about the story. So it was fine, a nice quick read, but nothing I'd go out of my way to recommend to anyone.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Burke

    I read the ARC of this novella after meeting Mr. Card at Book Expo. The story is charming without being sentimental. The characters are quirky, witty folks who are fun to spend time with. In today's divisive and contentious world, this book gives hope that people of good will can overcome differences. A Town Divided by Christmas is the perfect holiday gift. I read the ARC of this novella after meeting Mr. Card at Book Expo. The story is charming without being sentimental. The characters are quirky, witty folks who are fun to spend time with. In today's divisive and contentious world, this book gives hope that people of good will can overcome differences. A Town Divided by Christmas is the perfect holiday gift.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jerrod Carter

    Pretty corny.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Angieleigh

    I've heard great things about Card, and I love Christmas books, so I thought I would give this a try. Especially as the synopsis caught my attention with it being about a town that was divided because no one could decide who would play the baby Jesus during a nativity play one Christmas. That led to the congregation being split and a secondary church being created. Both churches had the same name almost, just with slight differences. Elian is one of those nerdy guys who has absolutely no sense o I've heard great things about Card, and I love Christmas books, so I thought I would give this a try. Especially as the synopsis caught my attention with it being about a town that was divided because no one could decide who would play the baby Jesus during a nativity play one Christmas. That led to the congregation being split and a secondary church being created. Both churches had the same name almost, just with slight differences. Elian is one of those nerdy guys who has absolutely no sense of humor, no personality, and is strictly scientific in all things. Well, at least it seems that way. He did surprise me from time to time with his snarkiness, and is directness was refreshing. Spunky, real name Delilah - yes, named after the biblical Delilah (sore subject) - who prefers being known by her last name, may be a scientist, but she doesn't play by scientific rules and is pretty "normal". She was my favorite part of the whole book, though Eggy, real name Eghbert, was a close second. This book isn't so much about what divides the town, or even why they're there, but more of a discovery of who Spunky truly is, the secrets that Elian hides, and learning the social norms of a very small town. I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I probably won't pick up a paperback copy or download the kindle version of it. There are areas that I feel could have been fleshed out more, but it was a good read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Cesar Leon

    Something very diferent from the Enderverse but i see here more a contemporary novel with something sciences that the opposite is i think went see OSC in the front cover of any book. But is very funny to have for christmas Interesante leer algo fuera del enderverse por OSC perono tiene ese nivel de asombro que me dejo el resto de sus obras e suna historia contemporanea linda para leer cerca de navidad.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I fell in love with this quiet little story. Card really captures the feeling of a small town and its inhabitants. I knew the types of people who lived there. I even understood how the division in the town could stay so firm so long. From this passage near the opening of the book on, Card had me hooked. "Only then did Spunky notice the churches. She realized that to Elyon, it was bound to look like a large number, but Spunky grew up in a church-going town and so the churches were, to her, like l I fell in love with this quiet little story. Card really captures the feeling of a small town and its inhabitants. I knew the types of people who lived there. I even understood how the division in the town could stay so firm so long. From this passage near the opening of the book on, Card had me hooked. "Only then did Spunky notice the churches. She realized that to Elyon, it was bound to look like a large number, but Spunky grew up in a church-going town and so the churches were, to her, like lawns — you only noticed them if they weren’t well tended." I know that town. It isn't really science fiction, so if that is what you are expecting, you might want to move on. It is simply fiction about people in a small town. If you like Jan Karon's books, this could well appeal to you.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elyza

    Actual rating for me is 3.5. It was a sweet story, but a little typical. Definitely not what I was expecting from Orson Scott Card.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Curt Evoy

    I have not read many OSC books. I know he is considered a great science fiction writer. To get in the Christmas spirit, a Christmas story written by OSC sounded interesting. The story of two post-doc researchers collecting genomic data in a small NC town during the holiday season did not interest me. OSC is a good writer. I found myself looking up a few new words.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    This is a Christmas movie in book form. I was fun to read at Christmas but could be read at any time. It has a strong woman and other cute characters, a little mystery, and a little romance. What more can you ask for?

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nolan

    Why does the fictional town of Good Shepherd, North Carolina have two churches whose names are remarkably similar. One includes a bell tower, the other a clock. In the early years of the 20th century, episcopalians in the community worshipped at the same church. But sometime after 1930, another building was constructed across the street. There was a division in the church that was so lasting in its divisiveness that nearly a century later, no one can remember what caused the split. But it's a fa Why does the fictional town of Good Shepherd, North Carolina have two churches whose names are remarkably similar. One includes a bell tower, the other a clock. In the early years of the 20th century, episcopalians in the community worshipped at the same church. But sometime after 1930, another building was constructed across the street. There was a division in the church that was so lasting in its divisiveness that nearly a century later, no one can remember what caused the split. But it's a fact that there hasn't been a marriage between members of the two congregations since the split. Folks think it happened because there was a dispute over which congregant infant should play Jesus in the Christmas pageant. But no one knows much about the parents of the two boys or why the division was so apparently bitter. Enter the genetic research project at a university within driving distance of the small town. Dr. Delilah Spunk just wants a job teaching. She's understandably tired of being an academic slave to a researcher who will almost surely take any and all credit for whatever work she does. Delilah, an economist, and Elyon, a geneticist, are dispatched to the small North Carolina community to determine whether there is a genetic marker for home bodies--people who may leave home for a while, but who invariably come back or who never leave. It's her job, because she is far more socialized than he is, to interview the residents, gain their trust, and convince them to let Elyon, who is condescending and awkward around people, conduct the genetic testing. Almost immediately upon their arrival in town, the young academics meet Eggie Loft. He's pretty much all of what city government is in the community. He's not the mayor because no one wants that job, so there isn't one. But he's that conscientious guy whose good heart leads the way and allows him to immerse himself in his community. It doesn't take long for Dr. Delilah (Spunky) Spunk to develop feelings for a guy who isn't the sculpted male model of all too much fiction, but who would make a great dad and a loving husband. The awkward economist, Elyon, isn't without his own reasons for eventually liking the town. His primary reason is Jozette, a high-school senior whom he has hired to cook for him and who ensures that he has relatively unrestricted opportunities to glimpse her cleavage often. Her cooking isn't great, but he doesn't mind the view at all. This isn't a profound plot that will shake you to your core. But it is a nicely written Christmas story that looks at all the ways we divide ourselves against one another and wonders whether most of those divisions are even necessary. There's nothing preachy here, but you'll come away thinking about why we're so intent on dividing ourselves against one another and hoping that we individually have the power to bridge many of those divisions. This is a single bus ride novella that is magnificently narrated. Emily Rankin literally can't turn in a bad performance. It's just not in her skillset. If she narrates it, you're guaranteed a great performance that enhances the book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rosemarie Hamilton

    This is just a very delightful and funny novella by Orson Scott Card. I found the banter back and forth with the characters quite refreshing in its genuineness. Finding out what truly divided this small town of Good Shepherd, North Carolina; will absolutely have you saying, "wait, whatt? No way! So we definitely have some mystery going on here. Right at the beginning, we meet Spunky (really?😅) Dr. Delilah Spunk, and Dr. Elyon Dewey, both post-doc researchers, one in economics the other in genetic This is just a very delightful and funny novella by Orson Scott Card. I found the banter back and forth with the characters quite refreshing in its genuineness. Finding out what truly divided this small town of Good Shepherd, North Carolina; will absolutely have you saying, "wait, whatt? No way! So we definitely have some mystery going on here. Right at the beginning, we meet Spunky (really?😅) Dr. Delilah Spunk, and Dr. Elyon Dewey, both post-doc researchers, one in economics the other in genetics. These two scientists are about to work together for the first time and neither is happy about that prospect. Elyon has no social skills whatsoever, most of the time he just comes off as condescending or rude. "The relentless extrovert with zero social skills." They're sent to Good Shepherd, North Carolina by their professor to do a study on genetic patterns. This is a very religious Town, that celebrates Christmas to its fullest. I mean practically everyone goes to church there. "These people have actual working feet. They aren't just squishy driver worms inside cars." Soon we're introduced to Eggie (ah! come on😅) the Alderman of the Town and to the Town itself. The study begins with interviews and the collection of DNA samples from the town's people. They soon learn that the town has been divided for almost 90 years, wow! that is a long time to feud about something. Anyway, it turns out that the feud began when they couldn't decide which baby to use to play the baby Jesus in their Nativity pageant. Can you believe because of this, these two churches that faced each other across the Town Square had, the same name, I mean they looked identical. There. was. no. difference. There are many things that can divide us, whether it be religion, science, how and where we live, educated, uneducated, there always seems to be something that divides us. This Christmas at least, let us all harmonize and ask for peace with each other This book gives you a couple of sweet romances, that makes you wonder, will this turned into one of those Hallmark Christmas movies that you watch with sometimes guilty pleasure every Christmas😊? There's actually quite a few funny references about hallmark movies. It's a humorous and entertainingly quirky read. It's one of those reads where you sit in front of the fire or curl up on the couch with a nice cup of tea, wearing your reading socks and your cat or dog beside you along for the read. I want to thank Mandy Earles at Blackstone Publishing for sending me a hard-copy of A Town Divided by Christmas.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Craig Childs

    Two post-doc university researchers arrive in Good Shepherd, North Carolina just before Thanksgiving to take DNA samples. The town is a statistical anomaly. Over the span of a hundred years, it has had an unusually high number of residents who either never left or who returned after short absences when they were young adults. The scientists want to find out if they can identify a “homebody” gene that is overrepresented in the population due to lack of outside genetic influence. Along the way, bo Two post-doc university researchers arrive in Good Shepherd, North Carolina just before Thanksgiving to take DNA samples. The town is a statistical anomaly. Over the span of a hundred years, it has had an unusually high number of residents who either never left or who returned after short absences when they were young adults. The scientists want to find out if they can identify a “homebody” gene that is overrepresented in the population due to lack of outside genetic influence. Along the way, both researchers fall in love. They also use their research to unravel a mystery behind two feuding Episcopalian churches that have divided the town for eighty-seven years. This slim holiday-themed hardback is something of an intrigue. It is an unabashed syrupy romance that seems to be inspired by too many Hallmark Christmas movies, a fact remarked upon by more than one character in the story. Yet, despite the occasionally cheesy factor, this is maybe the most authentic human interaction Card has written in several years. (His science fiction novels tend to lend themselves to analytical genius characters with limited social skills). The banter between the extroverted Dr. Delilah Spunk and the awkward, geeky Dr. Elyon is particularly funny. There is also a bit of a serious examination of the state of science research in America today—how bias is often introduced by the grant system, how real scientists often live at the mercy of career academics who control access to funding, and how data that does not support commercially-driven hypotheses is often obscured or outright hidden. The mystery of the feuding churches was a slight disappointment. It tied into the genetic research plot only as a tangent. The explanation in the last chapter explained why the schism started but not how it persisted for so many generations. This is worth reading, although the ideal target audience—fans of romantic comedies who also worry about the veracity of modern scientific research—might be a statistically insignificant niche.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I found this little novella to be sweet and fun. I loved the characters. It isn't a traditional Christmas story although Christmas does occur at the end. I loved the Thanksgiving dinner section where Spunky notices how Eggie genuinely comforts people. It is a lesson for me to learn. I'm going to write out a lot of it here for myself: (This isn't really a spoiler, but could be seen as such, fair warning.) "...he not only knew everybody seated anywhere nearby, but also liked them and cared about them I found this little novella to be sweet and fun. I loved the characters. It isn't a traditional Christmas story although Christmas does occur at the end. I loved the Thanksgiving dinner section where Spunky notices how Eggie genuinely comforts people. It is a lesson for me to learn. I'm going to write out a lot of it here for myself: (This isn't really a spoiler, but could be seen as such, fair warning.) "...he not only knew everybody seated anywhere nearby, but also liked them and cared about them and asked questions about their lives and their relatives and their pets and their projects and their jobs. And then he listened to what they had to say, and laughed at their jokes, and a couple of times became grave when they spoke of things they had suffered. He was deft at comforting people. Not the way most people did, by trying to cheer them up, which is usually offensive to somebody who's really down, because "cheering up" is about making everybody else feel better so they can ignore you again. ....Eggie had just validated him, had just said, You're right to love her, and we who love YOU recognize your suffering and respect it. He didn't offer stupid encouragement and he didn't tell him he'd get over it and there was nothing about how many fish are in the sea or how the wounds of the young heal fast or gibes about how a bit of time under the mistletoe would cue what ailed him. Eggie's genius, come to think of it, was in all the stupid things he chose NOT to say." The end of Eggie's Thanksgiving dinner prayer: 'And let there be no more tears shed in this house today, except of joy in fellowship of good souls and the memory of beloved ones who can't be with us.'

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Dunlap

    Two post-doctoral candidate -- Delilah ("Spunky") Spunk (PhD in economics) and Elyon Dewey (PhD in genetics) -- are sent to the small town of Good Shepherd, NC, to research the possibility of a scientific basis for the fact that many townsfolk who move away from Good Shepherd eventually move back. The two PhDs could not be more dissimilar: Spunky is a down-to-earth 'people person,' with great interpersonal skills, while Elyon is a curmudgeonly number-cruncher who resents being saddled with an ec Two post-doctoral candidate -- Delilah ("Spunky") Spunk (PhD in economics) and Elyon Dewey (PhD in genetics) -- are sent to the small town of Good Shepherd, NC, to research the possibility of a scientific basis for the fact that many townsfolk who move away from Good Shepherd eventually move back. The two PhDs could not be more dissimilar: Spunky is a down-to-earth 'people person,' with great interpersonal skills, while Elyon is a curmudgeonly number-cruncher who resents being saddled with an economics student. While in town, they discover the presence of two Episcopal churches in the town square (the First Episcopal Church of the Nativity and the First Episcopal Nativity Church), which splintered some eighty years before over which new-born male would play Baby Jesus in the annual live nativity. Spunky also discovers alderman Eckberht ("Eggie") Loft and finds herself in a growing relationship with him; meanwhile, Elyon engages the services of Jozette, a young townsperson, to cook for him and do light housekeeping. What will come of these relationships, if anything, once the scientific study reaches its conclusion? -- A slight, slim story, but an enjoyable one about the surprises we encounter in life that can be game-changers.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    A sweet tale well told. For a decade or more, Orson Scott Card has focused his writing on characters who coldly and strategically out-think everyone around them and/or giant nation-states jockeying for power, both of which have left me stone cold. Here, Card returns to the gentle spirit that characterized some of his early fiction (like Folk of the Fringe and the first few Seventh Son books), focusing on a few characters who are certainly intelligent but not the manipulative, nearly sociopathic A sweet tale well told. For a decade or more, Orson Scott Card has focused his writing on characters who coldly and strategically out-think everyone around them and/or giant nation-states jockeying for power, both of which have left me stone cold. Here, Card returns to the gentle spirit that characterized some of his early fiction (like Folk of the Fringe and the first few Seventh Son books), focusing on a few characters who are certainly intelligent but not the manipulative, nearly sociopathic geniuses that I've grown so tired of in Card's recent writings. All told, the book is not profound or transformative, but it's sweetly enjoyable. Honestly, I was grateful for the reminder why I've kept loving OSC through the homophobia, through the recent terrible books, ever since I discovered Ender's Game as a 10-year-old. Yes, he's unapologetically a fan of happy white Christians living in small towns and marrying people of the opposite sex and making lots of babies. But so is everyone who makes or enjoys Hallmark Christmas movies, so I can take a deep breath and meet him where he is. Pro tip: This charming novella will please fans of Card's Lost Boys and Seventh Son more than fans of Empire or Children of the Giant or Pathfinder.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Roxann

    From the cover: It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town’s Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be some things that people just don’t need to know. I received the book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Wo From the cover: It began with a quarrel over which newborn should be the baby Jesus in the town’s Christmas pageant. Decades later, two scientists arrive to study small-town genetic patterns, only to run up against the invisible walls that split the leading citizens into two congregations that can only be joined by love and forgiveness. And maybe a little deception, because there might be some things that people just don’t need to know. I received the book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Wonderful likeable characters. I wasn’t certain what to expect from this author since I hadn’t read any of his work before this. It was a good story with ‘real’ romance in it. I mean there wasn’t any descriptive sex in the book, just plain cute dialogue with lots of flirting. The dialogue between the characters was delightful and at times made me laugh. The science study of the town was more of a back story. Yes both of the scientists’ jobs were because of the study, but the story was mostly talking with the residents of the town and the light romance. I enjoyed reading this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Brown

    On a special assignment to conduct research in the small town of Good Shepherd, North Carolina, Dr. Delilah (Spunky) Spunk, an economist, and Dr. Elyon Dewey, a geneticist find themselves in a very unique place. A place that has been divided by Christmas for over fifty years, when a feud began over the Christmas Nativity for the Episcopalian church, and created a rift in the congregation that led to a new church being built and no-one crossing over from one congregation to another. Spunky, in the On a special assignment to conduct research in the small town of Good Shepherd, North Carolina, Dr. Delilah (Spunky) Spunk, an economist, and Dr. Elyon Dewey, a geneticist find themselves in a very unique place. A place that has been divided by Christmas for over fifty years, when a feud began over the Christmas Nativity for the Episcopalian church, and created a rift in the congregation that led to a new church being built and no-one crossing over from one congregation to another. Spunky, in the course of her research, must get these small town and closed lipped people to answer questions about their life and history. Luckily, she has the help of the local alderman, Eggie Loft, a sweet and down to earth guy, whom the town has decided is Spunky's perfect match and they are all hoping for the "Hallmark movie ending." But although life isn't always like a Hallmark movie, you never know what may happen in Good Shepherd. Such a sweet and delightful Christmas love story! Short, clean, and fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brenda Rezk

    I love most of Card's books, so I had to get this Christmas novella when I saw it. There aren't any aliens or people with special powers in this one, but it is well-written and explores human nature and the human heart. The characters are interesting. The main character is a female post-doc trying to navigate the complex power-structures of academia. She and a male grad student, who is rather like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, get assigned the task of studying whether a certain type of behav I love most of Card's books, so I had to get this Christmas novella when I saw it. There aren't any aliens or people with special powers in this one, but it is well-written and explores human nature and the human heart. The characters are interesting. The main character is a female post-doc trying to navigate the complex power-structures of academia. She and a male grad student, who is rather like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, get assigned the task of studying whether a certain type of behavior has a genetic component. There are some interesting glimpses here into learned behaviors to deal with different types of micro-cultural, familial, and religious conflicts. Card has a great way of exposing readers to new ideas and encouraging them to think about things they may have always taken for granted. I really connect with his characters, too.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Two scientists arrive in an Appalachian town to research genetic patterns of small towns. As they begin their research they find that the town is divided by two churches that were once one. The churches are across the street from each other and they each have a Nativity play at Christmas trying to outdo each other in the process. The feud apparently started when in choosing a local baby for the Nativity two women had babies very close together and they each thought their baby was entitled to the Two scientists arrive in an Appalachian town to research genetic patterns of small towns. As they begin their research they find that the town is divided by two churches that were once one. The churches are across the street from each other and they each have a Nativity play at Christmas trying to outdo each other in the process. The feud apparently started when in choosing a local baby for the Nativity two women had babies very close together and they each thought their baby was entitled to the spot. The rule was that the newest baby would win the spot. As the scientists grow closer to the community and ultimately find love they also learn of the real secret behind the feud. They know that perhaps it is a secret that should be kept just that.........a secret. An interesting story

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kari

    I am always on the lookout for a new holiday read, and this one fit the bill just perfectly this year. I would have read through it in one sitting if I hadn't been so tired that night...Two post-doc students are assigned a project to interview an entire town and collect DNA samples to determine if there is a specific gene that encourages / compels people to return to the same small town where they were born. Elyon and Spunky arrive in the small mountain town in North Carolina a few months before I am always on the lookout for a new holiday read, and this one fit the bill just perfectly this year. I would have read through it in one sitting if I hadn't been so tired that night...Two post-doc students are assigned a project to interview an entire town and collect DNA samples to determine if there is a specific gene that encourages / compels people to return to the same small town where they were born. Elyon and Spunky arrive in the small mountain town in North Carolina a few months before the Christmas holidays. A strange feud divides the town, traced back to the selection of who should play the Baby Jesus in the live nativity play over 7 decades ago. The scientists learn a lot about small-town politics, and themselves, in this heart-warming story.

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