A highly dramatic, intimate, and unforgettable story unfolds in the novel Christmas in Heaven, by Carol Lynch Williams. A young girl, Honey DeLoach, dreams of one day meeting a special friend who will visit her deserted hometown of Heaven, Florida. Life gets pretty lonely for Honey while living with her parents, Mandy and Joe, and older brother, Willy-Bill, especially since the only other people in town are annoying, Taylor Hiatt and his father. Soon, after the unexpected arrival of movie star, Miriam Season and her two daughters, Christmas and Easter, everything would change for the DeLoachs. Honey's grandfather and preacher, Pop-Pop, encourages Christmas to be saved after she realizes that her life is depressing and empty. Now, Honey's long-lasting, close friendship with Christmas, causes chaos and trauma for Willy-Bill and the rest of his family. His crush on troublemaker, Easter Season, disrupts his family's morals and creates hostility amongst one another. Author, Carol Williams, did an exceptional job depicting life in a small American town where the general mentality of people can be narrow-minded. I found the setting, characters, and conflict to fit well within the framework of what the author wanted to convey.
Mandy DeLoach painted a great big sign that said, "You're entering and leaving Heaven- right this very second (population: 6)." Heaven, Florida is a tiny place a billion miles from anywhere! It is so small that it is not even a town. However, the setting of this story played a major role in the development of the characters and their lives. The DeLoach family owns the local diner, and Willy-Bill resents his family for bringing him to what he considered an awful place. He refuses to work for that reason. So, when Easter moved there, it was no wonder that Willy-Bill took off, because he was very bored with his life. Also, having lived in Heaven for so long, it was a handicap to Willy-Bill and Honey's social and academic development. They were speaking with a colloquial dialect, indigenous to their area, but again, still a detriment and stifling to their growth. For example, they speak in incomplete sentences, "Used to be only three families lived here," said Honey. Willy-Bill lived in an encapsulated world, unlike myself, who is exposed to good and bad daily. He did not have the opportunity to make decisions on right and wrong, which is crucial in the maturing process.
The characters in this novel are unique and distinct. For instance, Christmas grew up in a dysfunctional family, leaving her extremely sad and depressed. Christmas witnessed the love and compassion that Honey received from her parents, and suddenly realized she was truly in Heaven. Ironically though, when Christmas met Honey, she was able to gain inner strength while nurturing her new friend through difficult times. She was positive and encouraging toward Honey in helping to build her self-esteem. On the other hand, Easter, Christmas's sister, portrayed the extreme opposite. She was busy bucking the system, drinking in excess, and a bit too friendly with men. Easter's influence on Willy-Bill was upsetting to the DeLoach family. Finally, Pop-Pop was the preacher who brought peace and harmony to a town that was perhaps a sunken ship. He was the steady hand that represented friendship, comfort, and warm-heartedness.
The tension, anger, and resentment portrayed in the story created conflict among the characters. When the Seasons moved to town and visited the diner, Miriam Season's first impression had disturbed Mandy DeLoach. Mandy disapproved of Miriam's principles and in the upbringing of her children. When she first discovered that Willy-Bill had been seeing Easter Season, she emphatically discouraged the relationship. Since Easter was the only girl that Willy-Bill thought he loved, the relationship continued in spite of his parents' disapproval. The constant conflict among the characters never ended, until tragedy struck.
The setting, characters, and conflict that painted this small American town, with its small-minded mentality, was explicitly outlined by Carol Williams. This would be a great book to share with my friends because it points out differences between people and lifestyles, and only through understanding these differences are we able to grow and become tolerant of one another. I was especially drawn to Pop-Pop, whose character centered around the idea that only love can conquer hate. Furthermore, this book helped me realize that growing up in a well-rounded society has left me somewhat naive of small town attitudes. It also made me aware of the vast differences among people and the complexities they face each day.