Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Review: "Over the Holidays" by Sandra Harper

It's only December 1, and Vanessa Clayton has been dreading Christmas since she spotted tinseled trees at her local mall in September. Thankfully, she and her husband, JT, can't afford to drag their twin boys across the country to New England for the annual celebration at her stuffy sister-in-law Patience's home. Not that Vanessa has prepared a proper Christmas for her family in years, and she has less time than ever since she agreed to consult on the script of a local play. Her older sister, Thea, is no help -- she'd rather make art and flirt with surfers than babysit her nine-year-old nephews. Then Patience drops a holiday stress bomb: Her family will come to California instead.In between "baking" cinnamon rolls for the school potluck and overbearing Patience testing her patience, Vanessa can't stop thinking about the difficult but charming playwright at work. Meanwhile, Patience's teenage daughter, Libby, obsesses over a college boy she has met by the pool, and Thea searches desperately for the meaning of Christmas -- for her latest installation, of course. As their holiday plans go comically awry, these four women discover the true spirit of the season is hidden in every festive surprise.

Gosh is it really almost time for Christmas? We haven't even had Halloween yet and people are already rushing to plan Christmas dinner and stock up on presents. It's interesting how November and December fly by until that holiday week and how much we tend to focus on putting on the perfect holiday for our family and friends. That's exactly what happens to the characters in this book as these two families get together for the holidays. The four women featured are all very different from each other. Frankly if they weren't related, I don't see any of them becoming friends in real life. Sisters don't agree with each other, mother and daughter have different views on things. The story shifts from each woman's perspective as they try to do what they think is best for them. This revolves from seeing if the guy they are dating is the one they want to spend their life with to finding a college boy and first love.

I felt this book to be heavy on commercialism during the holidays. There's no emphasis at all on the religious aspect of Christmas. Everyone seems to be more worried about making the perfect dinner, getting the perfect presents or finding the right date to spend the holidays with. Even with the families getting together for Christmas dinner seems like it's a burden and no one really wants to be there.

This book was hard for me to get into. I could really relate with any of the characters and many of their motives seemed superficial. I did agree with Vanessa about her relationship with her sister in law. I'm glad she stood up for herself at the grocery store and wasn't forced to purchase items she couldn't afford. I wasn't too big a fan of the cursing. I just felt that the story didn't really need it and it was just added for flavor. There's some sex in here as well but nothing too graphic. Overall I would have to say this is an ok read. It definitely gets you in the mood for the holidays and it's an early reminder to remember not to stress yourself by trying to have the perfect Christmas.

Over the Holidays by Sandra Harper is published by Pocket Books (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher.


  1. I think that's probably the way most people celebrate Christmas, I'm sad to say - they buy into the commercialism rather than celebrate the true meaning of the holiday.

  2. I thought it was overly commercial as well. :(

  3. Anonymous11:35 PM

    I love this book and I love this author (Did you read "High Tea" yet? Wow.) When I read her books I feel like she's writing about me and my relatives. It seems so real. But funnier...


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